After the chemical gas attack by the Assad regime on civilians in Douma, an airstrike took place on the T4 air base in Syria. Many people’s initial reaction was that the airstrike was America’s retaliation, but soon the finger was being pointed at Israel.
Iran used the air base as a central command facility, and Israel had attacked it before in order to limit the effectiveness of Iranian spy drones, and reduce any missile threat to Israel.
Iranian officials have admitted that seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed in the attack on the air base.
At this most intense time, with escalation in tension between the two world powers in Syria, the US and Russia, not much attention has been paid to the Iranians killed in the Israeli airstrikes.
Iran’s leaders vowed retaliation for the attack, but did nothing; they understand very well that the situation in Syria could become even uglier, and they would pay a heavy price.
Despite Iran’s claim that its presence in Syria is at the request of the official government, in fact it depends more on what Russia wants.
Iran has no interest in maintaining the secular regime of Bashar Assad. It has invested its financial resources to help Assad crush the opposition so that it can retain open access to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Tehran’s strategic regional policy of supporting Assad during seven years of civil war has cost the clerical regime a fortune.
Public anger and objections to Iran’s presence in Syria, and people’s frustration with a collapsing economy, turned into protests in January. People clashed with security forces in cities large and small, chanting their disapproval of the waste of their money in Lebanon and Syria, and demanding regime change.
Aware of the public’s view of events in Syria and Lebanon, the regime is now being cautious about how it reacts, and about the news it feeds to the public, for fear of more demonstrations.
Perhaps Israel took advantage of the chaos created by the chemical gas attack in Douma to strike the air base used by the Revolutionary Guards near Damascus.
Now that the US and its Western allies have retaliated for the Douma attack with missile strikes against targets in Syria, it is obvious that Iran will also pay a heavy price.
The Assad regime moved its aircraft and some military equipment inside Russian bases for protection, but what about the Iranians? They seem to have been abandoned. If neither the Russians nor the Syrian government care what happened to Iran’s “military advisers” during the missile strikes, why would they want to stay there? Iranians in Syria are easy targets for both the Western coalition and Israel.
Syria now is in the hands of Russia, mainly, then Turkey, and somehow Iran. But Iran is different because its presence depends so much on Russia; without an air force or land borders it has to tolerate everything that hits it, even if Israel strikes its bases time and time again.
Since the chemical gas attack on Douma, the regime in Tehran has been quiet. For them, Syria is less important than US President Donald Trump’s decision on the Iranian nuclear deal, due in less than a month, on May 12.
The frustrated Iranian public have no sympathy with Assad, nor with the Revolutionary Guard in Syria. All they are waiting for is the flame to ignite the negative backlash against the whole corrupt system of ayatollahs, and they hope that will be supplied by Trump’s exit from the nuclear deal.
Meanwhile the clerics in Tehran will keep quiet over Syria at any price, in the hope of surviving Trump’s anger.
- Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard