Iran Says Its First Known Ballistic Missile Strike in Syria Sends Message to USA

By Patrick Goodenough | June 20, 2017 | 4:23am EDT
A photograph released by Iran’s defense ministry purportedly shows a Zolfaqar being launched. (Photo: Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics, File)

( – Iranian lawmakers say the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ unprecedented firing of missiles at terrorist targets inside Syria sends a message not just to terrorists but also signals Iran’s dismissal of recent initiatives in the U.S. Congress targeting their country.

The IRGC announced earlier it had fired six missiles from Iranian soil, targeting ISIS positions in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. If the reports are true, the projectiles would have flown from western Iran clear across northern Iraq, a distance of at least 400 miles.

The IRGC said Sunday night’s action was in retaliation for an ISIS-claimed suicide bombing and shooting attack in Tehran this month that cost the lives of 17 civilians. At the time of the attack, the IRGC vowed publicly to “take revenge on terrorists, their affiliates and their supporters.”

“A large number of Takfiri terrorists have been killed and their equipment, systems and weapons have been destroyed,” the IRGC claimed, using an epithet Shi’ites sometimes use for Sunni extremists.

The Tehran Times described the strikes as Iran’s “first direct military move in the region” since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

In fact IRGC forces as well as Iran’s Shi’ite proxies such as Hezbollah have been fighting for years alongside the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. But Iran is not known before now to have used ballistic missiles against a foreign target since the costly war with Iraq, when both sides deployed missiles of various types.

The Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission said in a statement Monday the missile strike marked the beginning of a “new and major” stage in Tehran’s war against terrorists who, it said, benefit from the backing of the U.S. and its regional allies.

(The regime in Tehran dismisses as fraudulent the efforts of the U.S.-led multinational coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described the terrorist group as a creation of the West and its allies.)

“In addition to delivering a shattering blow to Daesh [ISIS] and other notorious groups on the Syrian soil, the missile attack gave the sponsors of terrorists a warning that any plot against Iran will not only be decisively smashed inside the country, but also receive a response at places hundreds of kilometers away from the Iranian territories,” it said.

The statement added that the IRGC’s missile strike also delivered a message to the U.S. Congress: Iran pays no attention to its hostile bills.

Legislation overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate last Thursday targets both Iran’s ballistic missile programs and the IRGC.

Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities – a threat not addressed during the nuclear deal negotiations – are prompting grave concerns in the West.

On Tuesday, the exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) plans a press conference in Washington to reveal new information on the regime’s rapidly-advancing missile program, including the locations of a dozen hitherto-unknown missile facilities.

According to the IRGC, the missiles fired on Sunday included the Zolfaqar, a new surface-to-surface missile which Iran has claimed can destroy targets around 450 miles away “with a zero margin of error.”

Zolfaqar missiles are displayed at a military parade in Iran last September. The slogan on the banner on the truck has been translated as 'If the leaders of the Zionist regime make a mistake then the Islamic Republic will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust.' (Photo: Tasnim news agency)

The Zolfaqar is the weapon which the IRGC unveiled at a military parade last fall, on a truck draped with a banner threatening to turn the Israeli population centers of Tel Aviv and Haifa “to dust.” Tel Aviv lies roughly 650 miles from the nearest Iranian territory.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Monday that Iran’s missile capabilities are designed to protect Iranian citizens “in lawful self-defense & advances common global fight to eradicate ISIS & extremist terror.”

The foreign ministry said the missile strike had been coordinated in advance with the Syrian government. It did not say whether Iraq’s consent was sought or granted.

Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told the ISNA news agency that the strike was a warning to those who do not “realize the realities in the region and their limits.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister who advises Khamenei on foreign affairs, said in a social media posting that the missile attack has sent the message that “the world’s most independent country will respond decisively to ill-wishers, terrorists and its enemies wherever they are.”

Senior military commanders also lined up to tout the firing as a major achievement and a message to Iran’s foes.

The Tasnim state news agency quoted IRGC spokesman Gen. Ramezan Sharif as saying Sunday’s strike was “only a tiny example of Iran’s punitive power over the terrorists and enemies.”

“Regional and international sponsors of terrorists” should be warned, he added.

Armed Forces chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri told a gathering in Tehran that Iran is now one of the world’s biggest missile powers, “thanks to the blood of martyrs and efforts made by domestic scientists.”

The Iranian Army’s Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan called the strike a “crushing response and a warning” to those seeking to ignite tensions in the region, with their troublemaking and ignorant ambitions.

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