The consulate attack: Iranian empire will not strike back

Makram Rabah
Makram Rabah
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This year’s April Fool’s Day, internationally recognized for its practical jokes and harmless trickery, unfolded under a different light for the residents of Damascus and the Almaza district. A significant explosion shook the neighborhood, targeting an annex of the Iranian embassy in Syria. This Israeli strike on the Iranian compound resulted in the complete demolition of the building where senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leaders were holding a meeting. The attack led to the death of Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon.

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The strike against the IRGC in Damascus was, to many, a provocation that could have dragged the Iranian regime into a full-scale war. Yet, over one week has passed without any retaliatory action from Iran. This inaction, following the Israeli strike that decimated the operational command of the IRGC in the Levant, highlights several critical facts that both the regional populace and the international community continue to overlook. These facts reaffirm Iran’s relative weakness compared to the West’s assumptions or the image it wishes to project to the region.

While the Biden administration and the Iranian regime have disassociated themselves from the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Zahedi and his team—given their titles and job descriptions—were pivotal in orchestrating Iran’s network of non-state actors or militias. Their role in enhancing the capabilities, training, and funding of Hamas and similar groups was clearly articulated in the eulogies published following their deaths.

Zahedi and his companions were not employees of an international NGO working to alleviate the plight of refugees or the disenfranchised. Instead, they were directly responsible for the chaos and destruction wrought by the IRGC across the region, including the sinister use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons alongside the Assad regime.

Thus, portraying Zahedi and the IRGC as champions of regional peoples and Palestinians is not only unfounded but also offensive. The IRGC and its proxies, equipped solely for suppressing and persecuting local Arab opponents, have proven ineffective against technologically superior armies. The confrontation between the Israeli army and Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, exemplifies this. Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian crisis and its transformation into a regular army have made it more vulnerable to Israeli actions, moving away from the guerrilla tactics that marked its inception.

Despite expectations of retaliation from Iran or the IRGC for the loss of their commanders, such a response seems improbable, given the reality on the ground and historical precedents. While Zahedi was significant to Iran, his importance did not match that of his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force assassinated by the United States on January 3, 2020. Iran’s subsequent actions did not match the gravity of Soleimani’s loss, and the accidental downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 turned the IRGC into an object of ridicule. Both Iran and its proxies have vowed retribution. Yet, their actions suggest a preference for perceived restraint over actual courage, to the point where Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has been mockingly referred to as “Mr. Patience” by critics.

In reality, contrary to its leadership’s threats, the IRGC lacks the capability to fulfill its grandiose claims against Israel or support the Palestinians amid ongoing strife in Gaza. Iran’s restraint is not a reflection of strategic wisdom but a manifestation of its inability to live up to the narrative constructed by the West, particularly the United States, as a formidable adversary or more sinisterly as a rational being that can be contained and normalized.

The notion of the “Iranian Empire” striking back is a misnomer. Iran is not an empire but a rogue state led by aging warlords masquerading as tacticians. Ultimately, plotting mayhem from a consulate does not confer diplomatic immunity, nor does proclaiming to champion the rights of the Palestinian people while actively undermining their cause.

Read more:

IRGC says seven members killed in Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus

Iran unlikely to strike Israel directly after Syria consulate attack, experts say

Iran’s Khamenei says Israel ‘must be punished’ for Syria embassy attack

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