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Is Iranian Revenge Real or Just Noise?

2024-02-12 10:07

Issam Khoury

#Geopolitics , #IranRetaliation , #USPolicy , #RegionalSecurity , #Election2024,

Is Iranian Revenge Real or Just Noise?

"Analyzing Iran's missile response to the "Kerman" attack, the text explores strategic motives, regional impacts, and U.S. policy implications."


If I were in the Biden administration’s shoes tonight, I would announce that I’m immediately starting a program to train Kurdistan Regional Government forces to operate the Patriot anti-missile system [1].”


These words were spoken by Joel D. Rayburn [2], the former U.S. Special Envoy for Syria during President Donald Trump's term.


Of course, Joel's tweet came after Iran launched 24 missiles targeting three areas, as announced by the Iranian news agency IRNA. These areas are:



  1. The stronghold of the terrorist group ISIS in the Idlib region of Syria.
  2. A Mossad spy headquarters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
  3. Strongholds of terrorist groups in other occupied areas within Syrian territory [3].



The Iranian strikes on these areas were aimed at seeking revenge for the perpetrators of the "Kerman" attack on January 3, 2024, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of Iranians during the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Despite ISIS claiming responsibility for this operation, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard insisted on the hidden hand of the Israeli Mossad. 



From here, Iran claimed that its strike on a civilian area in Erbil, near the U.S. consulate and the Erbil airport where international coalition forces are stationed, was a strike on a Mossad spy headquarters. 



However, U.S. officials told Alhurra TV on January 16, 2024[4], that none of their facilities or forces were affected. This caused great anger among Iraqi officials, especially since the strike targeted the home of the Kurdish-Iraqi businessman Beshro Dizayi, resulting in the deaths of four people and the injury of six others. 



This attack was described by Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, as a "crime against the Kurdish people," as Dizayi is one of the leading real estate investors in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Prime Minister close to Iran, Mohammed Shia' Al-Sudani, described it as “blatant aggression against Iraq that undermines the strong bilateral relations between Iraq and Iran [5].”



It is noteworthy that Iran announced targeting ISIS in Idlib, despite Idlib being under the control of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and the absence of ISIS there. It seems that Iran's intention with this statement is to include all Sunni jihadist organizations, such as ISIS, in its retaliatory attacks, to link them to the internationally accepted counter-terrorism project. Interestingly, Hamas, which is also a radical organization listed on international terrorism lists, is a partner of Iran in the so-called resistance and defiance project.



Away from labeling extremist radical groups, Iran's missile attacks on Idlib had a broad objective: to send a message to Israel that Iranian ballistic missiles are capable of reaching targets over 1200 kilometers away. The four "Khyber Shikan" ballistic missiles that targeted Idlib, were manufactured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Force in 2021 and were claimed to have a range of 1450 kilometers, equipped with a joint guidance system and a maneuverable warhead in case of defense systems like the Iron Dome.



The same type of missile was also used on Tuesday, January 17, 2024, to target the opposition headquarters of the Iranian Balochistan in Pakistan, with the aim of linking Baloch Sunnis to terrorist organizations as a prelude to suppressing them if they decide to rebel against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.



The Iranian attacks on three countries indicate that the Revolutionary Guard does not know the true perpetrators of the "Kerman" operation. Still, it wants to send messages to all its adversaries that it will strike any country that poses a threat to Iran's national security, regardless of the precision of the targeting. The important thing is to create regional anxiety and threaten international markets.



The Iranian Revolutionary Guard preempted the launch of its ballistic missiles by sending a large shipment of weapons to the Houthi group, including medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles. These were seized by the US Navy on January 11, 2024[6], providing conclusive evidence that Iran is the funder and planner of targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea. This embarrassed Iran, so it launched its ballistic missiles to make the Americans feel that it possessed a more dangerous force than the Houthi militias.



The United States understood Iran's message and prepared 1500 soldiers for training in Texas, in preparation for sending them to Iraq and Syria to enhance the American presence in a region filled with events and disturbances. On January 17, 2024 [7], the Houthi group (SDGT) was included in the terrorism lists, after the US Treasury had removed this classification from them on February 12, 2021[8]. This indicates that the Biden administration intersects with the new Republican hawks represented by figures like Joel D. Rayburn when it comes to US national security. Undoubtedly, this action will have an impact on many decisions of the White House and the Democratic Party administration before the start of the US elections in November 2024.




[1] @Joel_Rayburn, Jan 15, 2024



[2] Joel Rayburn, founder/Director, American Center for Levant Studies. Also New America Foundation & Hoover Institution. Former US Special Envoy for Syria. US Army (Retired).


[3] The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announces targeting the espionage hideout of Mossad and terrorists in Iraq and Syria using ballistic missiles/ January 16, 2024, Iranian official news agency IRNA.



[4] Tow Officials: US facilities not targeted in attacks on Erbil/Alhurra TV/ January 16, 2024  مسؤولان: المنشآت الأميركية لم تستهدف بهجمات أربيل | الحرة (alhurra.com)


[5] Al Hurra "Iraq" TV / Explicit aggression: Iraqi Prime Minister comments on the Iranian strike / January 16, 2024

 "عدوان صريح".. رئيس الوزراء العراقي يعلق على الضربة الإيرانية | الحرة (alhurra.com)

[6] Washington announces the seizure of an Iranian weapons shipment on its way to the Houthis/ Al Arabiya TV/ January 16, 2024

واشنطن تعلن ضبط شحنة أسلحة إيرانية في طريقها إلى الحوثيين (alarabiya.net)


[7] U.S. renews terrorist designation of Houthi rebels amid Red Sea attacks/ CBC/ By Olivia Gazis, Faris Tanyos/Jan 16, 2024



[8] Revocation of the Terrorist Designations of Ansarallah/ FEBRUARY 12, 2021



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