“This is the first time in seven years that the Israelis have deliberately killed Iranian revolutionary guards … Attacking T-4 airport is a pivotal incident in the history of the region that can’t be ignored.” — Iranian Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah
TEHRAN, IRAN – Iran has no intention of letting Tel Aviv get off scot-free after the Israeli military struck an alleged Iranian air-defense system at the T4 base in Syria earlier this month, according to a senior military official in Tehran who promised that the Islamic Republic “cannot remain indifferent” to escalations by Israel, the U.S. and its allies.
The comments come in defiance of repeated Israeli threats that any Iranian retaliation for the attack will be met with a devastating and disproportionate response, including the assassination of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani issued the warning prior to his departure to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Sochi, Russia. Shamkhani noted:
When a regime assumes the right to violate another country’s airspace in a planned move and also target forces fighting with terrorism, it should have definitely considered its consequences and retaliatory reactions.”
Tel Aviv’s ongoing intervention in Syria
The Israelis have expressed anxiety over Iran’s participation in the Syrian conflict on the side of the country’s government, claiming that Tehran is using its presence there to consolidate its regional power and place a “noose” around Israel. Among other accusations, Tel Aviv claims Tehran has built various GPS-guided missile factories in the country, is supporting militia who are encroaching on Israeli-occupied land in the southwest, and controls around 82,000 fighters who are in the country fighting alongside the Syrian Army.
Highlighting Tel Aviv’s insecurity about regional developments, officials have openly said that the consolidation of Iran’s “hegemony” in Syria poses a threat far greater than the Islamic State group (ISIS) or the Jihadist groups that form the bulk of Syria’s anti-government opposition, causing the Israelis to ramp-up direct support to opposition groups in Southwest Syria.
Israeli occupation forces seized the strategic 500-square-mile Golan Heights from Syria in its expansionist war of 1967 prior to outright annexing it. Amid intense military activity in the Syrian region of the Golan over the past several years of civil war, the Israelis have periodically attacked Syrian military targets in the Damascus-controlled portion of the Heights. The two countries have remained in a technical state of war for over five decades.
The Israelis have also acknowledged carrying out other air raids on government targets, including a power plant, arms caches and the alleged assets of Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah — a longtime Iran ally that has won impressive past victories over Israeli occupying troops and invasion attempts, heightening Tel Aviv’s angst and issuance of threats to launch devastating war on neighbors.
On early Monday, April 9, two Israeli F-15 jets launched eight missiles at Syria’s T-4 airbase near Homs, claiming the lives of Iranian military personnel, including a top senior officer in Iran’s developing aerial drone program, Colonel Mehdi Dehghan.
— Danny Makki (@Dannymakkisyria) April 11, 2018
The Israelis had previously accused Iran of using the base to launch an Iranian Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) drone that penetrated Israeli airspace and was allegedly carrying “explosives” in a bid to carry out “an act of sabotage.” While the drone was shot down, the event sparked a debate in the ranks of the Israeli establishment about their preparedness in the face of the “drone threat.”
“This [February incident] is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” a senior Israeli military officer told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman earlier this month. “This opened a new period.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Israelis had also tracked an Iranian plane flying a Tor surface-to-air missile system from Tehran to the Homs base and were keen on preventing the system from being set up.
This month’s attack on the T-4 base was met by a furious reaction by Moscow: the Russian Defense Ministry quickly outed the Israelis as the culprits in the attack while other officials demanded clarification for the attack. The ministry said:
Two F-15 planes of the Israeli army hit the airbase between 03:25 am and 03:53 am Moscow time [0025 GMT and 0053 GMT] with the help of eight missiles controlled remotely from Lebanese territory, without entering Syrian air space.”
Iranian Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah blasted the attack as a strategic miscalculation that would force Israel to finally face Iran:
This is the first time in seven years that the Israelis have deliberately killed Iranian revolutionary guards … Attacking T-4 airport is a pivotal incident in the history of the region that can’t be ignored … All those thousands of terrorists in Syria do not concern the Israelis, while they have every kind of weapons; however, they are afraid of just few revolutionary guards there”
When Push Comes to Shove…
Since launching their attack, the Israelis have spared no effort to play up Iranian promises of retaliation as potentially meaning Iran and allies like Hezbollah will attempt “to strike at Israeli and Jewish targets outside the region,” as analyst and former Brigadier General Shimon Shapira forecast.
Tel Aviv frequently accuses Iran and Hezbollah of seeking to commit “terrorist attacks” on Israeli civilian targets far from the theater of conflict, yet officials for both parties have denied that they would fight back in such a manner.
Last Friday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Vice Commander Hossain Salami reminded the Israelis that their air bases are “within reach” of Iran’s military and could be targeted at any time. The next day, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned that his organization has “the ability, the power and the missiles to hit any target in Israel.”
Now that Russia is threatening to send an S-300 ground-to-air defense complex to Syria in the aftermath of U.S.-led coalition attacks on Syrian military targets, the Israelis are growing increasingly nervous that their window for attacking Syrian targets with impunity may be shrinking fast.
Judging by Iranian officials’ words, the country has reached its limits and isn’t willing to continue accepting further aggressive attacks from the Israelis. Shamkhani noted:
The Islamic Republic of Iran has paid a considerable price in order to establish regional stability and fight against Takfiri terrorism. Therefore, it cannot remain indifferent to the worrying increase of destabilizing measures by the U.S., the Zionist regime [Israel], and some of their regional allies.”
Top Photo | Iranian army troops march during a parade marking National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2018. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.