The Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said today that the Islamic Republic is determined to punish Israel for the latest strikes on a Syrian air base in which several Iranian military personnel were killed. Speaking to reporters in Tehran before leaving for Russia, Ali Shamkhani, who is also a top advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said retaliation against Israel was “inevitable” and stressed that the Islamic Republic would choose “the timing, place and scope of the response to [Israel’s] evil action.” He continued: “If the Zionist regime hasn’t noticed that the era of hit and run and thuggish exhibitions to create fear and horror has ended, it should then pay a price for this ignorance.” Shamkhani also emphasized that Iran has “paid heavy costs” in Syria, and therefore, “it cannot ignore a nerve-wracking increase in destabilizing actions by America, the Zionist regime and some of their regional allies.”
Comment: Tension between Iran and Israel and the possibility of a direct confrontation between the two archenemies in Syria have increased dramatically since the April 8 suspected Israeli strikes on Syria’s T-4 air base. At least seven Iranian personnel, including the head of Iran’s drone operations based in T-4, were killed. Since then, top Iranian officials and commanders of Iranian-backed militia forces in the region have vowed revenge. In his recent trip to Damascus, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, also emphasized that the T-4 strikes “will not go unanswered.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry and Revolutionary Guards commanders have echoed a similar threat.
The Israeli government has taken Iran’s warnings seriously and is bracing for a retaliation from Tehran or its allies in the region.
As Shamkhani’s remarks indicate, however, Iran’s retaliation may not necessarily be in the immediate term or necessarily through Iranian-led forces in Syria. But Tehran and its allies may target Israeli interests in any parts of the world in order to deter further Israeli actions against Iranian military assets in Syria.
Over the past six years, the Israeli military has conducted more than 100 strikes against suspected Iranian targets inside Syria. And Israeli leaders have made it clear that they will continue to hit Iranian positions if Tehran chooses to establish a long-term military presence in Syria. “No matter the price, we will not allow a noose to form around us,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio over the weekend.