Iran Missile Attacks on ISIS
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have fired multiple solid-fueled Zolfaghar surface-to-surface medium range ballistic missiles from the Guards’ Aerospace Force bases in the Kermanshah and Kurdistan provinces into eastern Syria, striking at ISIS centers in the Deir Azzor province in retaliation for the June 7 twin terrorist attacks in Tehran which left 18 dead and wounded dozens of civilians. The missile attack is the first operational use of mid-range ballistic missiles by Iran since the Iran-Iraq war.
The strikes came hours after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said in a statement that Iran would “slap its enemies” in honor of the victims' families of those who were killed in the recent terror attacks in Tehran and those killed in Syria and Iraq.
The statement issued by the Public Relations Office of the Revolutionary Guards reads “The Takfiri [refers to Sunni Muslim radicals by Iranian leaders] terrorists' command center, concentration points and logistical centers used for assembling cars for suicide attacks in the Deir Azzor region in eastern Syria came under attack by the IRGC on June 19, in a move to punish the terrorists for the twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and the holy shrine of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, on June 7.” Furthermore, the statement added that according to intelligence reports, “a large number of Takfiri terrorists have been killed and their equipment, systems, and weapons have been destroyed” during the operation.
The Revolutionary Guards warned the terrorists and their “regional and international supporters” that similar retaliatory attacks would target them if another assault on Iran happens. “The IRGC warns the Takfiri terrorists and their regional and trans-regional supporters that they would be engulfed by its revolutionary wrath and flames of the fire of its revenge in case they repeat any such devilish and dirty move in the future.”
Hossein Amirabdullahian, Former Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs in Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the missile strikes a “soft warning” to terrorists. Fars News Agency, called the missile attacks “the Revolutionary Guards’ slapping the face of the Tehran attacks perpetrators.”
Another Iranian official said that “the enemy should know that the smallest act of aggression on Iranian soil will be retaliated.” Mohsen Rezaee, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards also noted that these attacks were the onset of Iran's vengeance for the ISIS terror group and also warned that “Iran's bigger slap is on the way.” Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guards’ Aerospace Force noted that “those counting on their “on the table” options should pay attention to our “under the table” options.”
Although Iran is fully involved in the Syrian conflict by providing military advisors, fighters and financial support to Bashar Al-Assad, the Revolutionary Guards’ striking ISIS bases in Syria with ballistic missiles is a major escalation of Iran's role in the war in Syria.
The Guards’ missile attacks on ISIS centers have a broader implication. It is more of a message from Iran to Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as the United States, rather than a sheer retaliatory assault on the ISIS terror group. Not to mention that the missile strikes were carried out by the Guards on the same day that U.S. coalition forces shot down a Syrian jet that bombed US-aligned forces. This is hardly a coincidence.
Iran may also have wanted to test its missile’s accuracy. The Revolutionary Guards could retaliate against the Islamic State with artillery from a local point where the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are well positioned in the Deir Azzor province. Considering this, the missile attacks on ISIS might serve a different purpose; testing of the missiles’ accuracy. More to the point, after being “put on notice,” by Washington, the Guards’ Aerospace Force did not carry out further ballistic missile tests. Striking ISIS- a common enemy of Iran and the United States- with ballistic missiles could be one reasonable option for Tehran to test a new missile without fear of being penalized by Washington. Moreover, Iran may also have wanted to test the reliability of its missiles in a real battle situation. As pointed out by the media, this is the first operational use of mid-range ballistic missiles by Iran since the Iran-Iraq war.
Regardless of the actual purpose of the Guards’ missile attacks, it will not sit well with Iran’s regional adversaries including Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are concerned about Iran's regional ambitions and its ballistic missiles arsenal.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of IRAM.