After airstrikes against military bases in Syria on April 30, Iranian sources denied that any of its soldiers were killed in the attack. There is no evidence that the United States is involved, but the attack has further highlighted the tense relations between the two countries.
Two conservative media outlets, Fars News Agency and the Tasnim News Agency, both believed to be linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that an “informed source” rebutted the stories that ran in the Western media that Iranian military advisers were killed in the attack. The New York Times reported that at least 16 people died in the attack on bases used by Iranians and allied groups.
The Syrian government confirmed that missiles were launched against bases near Hama and Aleppo. Immediately after the strikes, unconfirmed reports claimed that eight Iranians had been killed. No group or country has taken responsibility for the attack. Israel most likely conducted an April 9 attack on a base in Homs, Syria, in which Iranians were confirmed to have been killed.
Iranian officials have not directly responded to the attack, but the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, indirectly addressed the strikes on Iranians as well as the US role in the region.
“During the time of the previous American president, who is as ill-tempered as the current American president, I said that the era of ‘hit and run’ is over,” Khamenei said during an April 30 speech. “They know that if they get into a military conflict with Iran, they will be struck multiple times over.”
While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is touring the region, meeting allies and promising to confront Tehran, Khamenei asserted that Iran's regional presence is not the problem, but rather, it is the United States'. “We are from here, and the Persian Gulf and West Asia is our home,” Khamenei said. “You are the foreigners and are after destruction and sedition.”
Khamenei also addressed the current rivalry with Saudi Arabia, which he accused of being encouraged by the United States. “The Americans are trying to instigate the Saudis and other regional countries to stand opposed to the Islamic Republic, but if they have wisdom, they will not be tricked by America.”
The Iranian leader added that the Americans do not want to pay the cost of confronting Iran themselves and are therefore trying to get others to do the fighting for them. “Some countries in the region should know,” Khamenei said, “if they face the Islamic Republic, they will certainly lose.”
Khamenei charged that the United States is currently focused on an economic and cultural war against Iran and that the US Treasury, which oversees sanctions, is currently America’s “war room.” To counter US actions, he stressed that Iranians should rely on domestic goods and production and called it a mistake to depend on anyone outside of the country's borders.
While relying on domestic production has economic disadvantages for consumers, Iran’s economy is vulnerable to the political winds in Washington and Western Europe. On May 12, President Donald Trump will decide whether the United States remains a party to the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany in July 2015. If Trump reneges on the deal and reapplies the sanctions lifted in exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear program, the United States would once again apply sanctions against many foreign companies doing business with Iran since the deal took effect.
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