Iran adheres to ambiguity over attack on US base in Syria
TEHRAN – Iran’s Foreign Ministry suggested on Tuesday that a statement by a group called the Iranian Consultative Center in Syria – which warned US forces of fresh attacks – was not representative of Tehran’s position.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Embassy in Damascus will make public Iran’s official positions on the fight against terrorism in Syria,” ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
In a statement circulated on social media last week, the body issued a warning to US forces in Syria, promising to target them if they attack Iranian troops or bases there.
🇮🇷🇸🇾 In the name of God, the most gracious, most merciful
“And if you return, we will return and make Hell for the disbelievers
Believe in God Almighty”
• Statement issued by the Iranian Advisory Center in Syria:
— Mahdi Rizvi (@MehdiRizvi123) March 25, 2023
While carefully avoiding commenting on the group’s affiliation, Kanani reiterated on the official Iranian line that his presence in Syria comes at the behest of the Syrian government and for the purpose of “helping the Syrian army and people against terrorist groups.”
Iran has claimed that its forces in Syria are only acting in an advisory role, rather than engaging in direct combat activities.
The statement from the largely unknown group came in response to a series of American military strikes in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province last Thursday. The targeted facilities are reported to belong to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The US military explained that the airstrikes came in retaliation for a drone strike on a maintenance facility run by the US-led coalition. An American contractor was killed and five soldiers wounded in what Washington blamed on Iranian-backed proxies. Tehran, for its part, has accused the United States of targeting civilians in Deir ez-Zor.
Iran-backed militias have carried out several drone attacks on US targets in Syria in recent years, including the January attack on the Al-Tanf garrison in Homs province.
After last week, IRGC media outlets published a claim of responsibility from another obscure Iraqi group. Fars and Tasnim news agencies released a statement in Arabic attributed to Liwa al-Ghalibun, the “Brigade of Bucks,” without elaborating on the group’s background, prompting arguments that the IRGC is using those names as a cover to avoid accountability.
While doing well to avoid direct demands, Iran has acknowledged its support for a network of anti-American and anti-Israeli militias across the Middle East.
“We openly declare our support for the resistance,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week in a speech celebrating Iran’s new year. What Tehran calls the “counter-resistance” is largely to its Western proxies as fringe terrorist groups that destabilize the Middle East.
Over the past decade, the presence of the IRGC in Syria and Iraq has interfered with the normal duties of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even ambassadors to both countries were appointed not from the career diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but from among the men in uniform serving with the IRGC’s Quds Force, the notorious branch responsible for overseas activities.
As early as Monday, senior Quds Force commander Hossein Akbari was named as Iran’s new ambassador to Damascus.