The war of words between Russia and the United States has escalated following the recent suspected chemical attack on Douma and the Israeli airstrike on the T4 air base in Syria, which left seven Iranians dead. Iranian media are extensively covering and analyzing these developments.
While conservative outlets generally opine that a US military attack on Syria is likely, Reformist media and figures are urging Iranian officials to be cautious in case a war erupts.
Javan newspaper, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, believes that the United States is preparing itself for a strike on Syria. The hard-line daily wrote April 11, “The process of studying the case of the alleged chemical attack in Douma … and the accusations by the West against Russia for supporting the Syrian government has increased the possibility of a direct US-Russian military conflict in Syria. Given that the crisis in Russian-US relations has intensified, it appears that Washington is preparing itself for a possible attack on Syria.”
Moreover, ultraconservative Kayhan newspaper, whose chief editor is appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also argued that a US attack on Syria is likely.
“A limited US attack on a number of areas in Syria is possible, and if Trump becomes satisfied with this scope of [the attack], he can put this crisis behind him [and save face], and convince public opinion that he has fulfilled his threats. But if the scope of the attack, as he has said, becomes 'wider and strong,' the current crisis will turn into a dangerous war that will swallow Trump. Nonetheless, we should not ignore [the fact] that even a [limited] attack can [lead to] a decisive answer by Russia and its allies,” wrote Kayhan April 11.
Meanwhile, in an interview with conservative Tasnim news agency, Hossein Sheikholislam, Iran’s former ambassador to Syria, stated that a US attack is likely. He said April 11, “The Americans may increase their military movements in Syria and attack the country; however, in our opinion, such actions [may be] destructive, but will be ineffective on the political and practical scenes.”
He added, “The Americans know that they don’t have the courage and guts to deploy their forces in Syria, and if [they] deploy forces, they will leave Syria as corpses.”
The Iranian diplomat continued, “A US military strike on Syria can turn into their last defeat in Syria. It seems that the Americans will resort to military action as the last way to say 'America is effective in Syria,' but this plot as the last solution will have no results.”
In the meantime, Qassem Mohebali, a former Iranian diplomat, urged Iranian officials to be cautious and not to trust Russian promises in case of eruption of a war in Syria following a US attack.
He told the moderate Entekhab news site April 10, “Iran should be cautious. Iran is one of the targets of the United States, and now the Americans, Israelis, Arabs and Turks are keen to [see] Iran withdraw from Syria.” He added, “It is not unlikely that America and Russia may reach an agreement based on which America will target Iranian positions and that Russia would then ask Iran to leave Syria.”
Mohebali emphasized, “Iran must be cautious … and should not be deceived by the radicals of the region and the verbal support of the Russians and if any action is supposed to happen, [Tehran should] let Russia pioneer [such action] and not Iran.”
He also noted, “It is unlikely that the United States will directly target Russia's positions [in Syria]. In case of war, the United States is likely to primarily target Syrian positions and then Iranian positions [in Syria], though the possibility of attacks on Iranian positions is less likely.”