Top Khamenei adviser threatens retaliation against Israel for Syria strikes

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Apr 11, 2018
Top Khamenei adviser threatens retaliation against Israel for Syria strikes

A senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has threatened retaliation against Israel and its allies for the latest air strikes on a Syrian air base that killed several Iranian nationals, the Iranian media reported. “This crime will certainly not go unanswered,” Ali Akbar Velyati told the Islamic Republic News Agency during his trip to Damascus. He made the comments during his trip to Damascus. The former Iranian foreign minister reaffirmed Iran’s support for the government of Bashar al-Assad and said the Israeli actions only further strengthen the resolve of the Iranian military and its allies to remain engaged in Syria. “The defenders of shrines will continue to stand by the Syrian government and people against the enemies of the Islamic community, particularly the Zionist regime and its masters, in this country.” He further stressed that Iran and its allies are confident that they will achieve a victory in Syria soon and will “expel the enemies from the country soon.” Velayati, who holds more than a dozen official positions in Iran, also praised the latest military operations by pro-regime forces in Eastern Ghouta, despite the fact months of air campaigns by the Syrian Army killed hundreds of civilians in February and March alone. The Iranian media also published a video from Velayati’s visit to Eastern Ghouta. He was speaking to reporters against the backdrop of ruined buildings. 

In Damascus, Velayati met with senior Syrian officials, including Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, Religious Endowment Minister Mohammad Abdul Sattar, top Syrian security officials. Velayati also participated in a conference entitled “Jerusalem and Our Parth”. 

Comment: Israel is increasingly worried about Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its regional proxies seeking to establish a long-term presence in post-ISIS Syria, particularly in southern Syria close to Israeli border. In addition to the presence of Iranian-supported militia groups which are now openly threatening to attack Israel next from Syria, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah have reportedly been setting up permanent military bases in Syria. In February, the Israeli Air Force struck the same Syrian base, which Israeli military officials said hosted the command and control center for Iran’s drone operations. In an unprecedented event, Israel lost an F-16 fighter jet after attacking Iranian and Syrian military positions. 

Although Iranian officials routinely threaten the Jewish state, the Israeli government apparently took Velayati’s threat seriously and reportedly discussed the heightening tension in Syria and potential retaliatory actions in a cabinet session earlier today. 

If Tehran decides to retaliate, it will not launch a direct attack against Israel but will most likely act against Israel through its proxies in the region or sponsor attacks against Israeli interests globally. 

The latest escalation indicates that a collision between Iran and Israel in Syria may be inevitable in the near future.

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