Iran's leadership remains muted on response to Israeli airstrike

Iran's leadership remains muted on response to Israeli airstrike
Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei has not divulged what he has planned for Israel. / CC: Khameni media
By bne Tehran bureau April 3, 2024

Iran’s leader, Ali Khamenei, has been unusually muted in his first official response to the killing of seven military officers in Damascus on April 1, his official media channel reported on April 3.

In a speech to military chiefs of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Armed Forces, Air Force and Navy, he said: “The defeat of the Zionist [Israeli] regime in Gaza will continue, and this regime will approach demise and dissolution.”

“Desperate efforts, such as the action they took in Syria, will not save them from defeat. They will indeed be slapped for this action,” he said.  He added, “evil [Israeli] regime will be punished.”

This year's meeting followed the same format as previous years, attended by officials and agents from the clerical system, senior representatives from various institutions, and members of the Islamic Council.

The Israeli air strike on the Iranian embassy in Damascus was one of several airborne strikes attributed to Tel Aviv that targeted and killed Iranian military staff in the region since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian war.

Following Khamenei’s comments, the President of the Islamic Republic, Ebrahim Raisi, said: “The usurping Zionist regime will be punished by the brave men of the resistance front, and they will regret this crime and others like it.”

He clarified: “I send my greetings to the pure souls of all the martyrs of the Palestinian resistance and the martyrs of the Quds path.”

The action, which has been described by several US and European diplomatic officials as “a declaration of war” as it targets the sovereign land of Iran in the act of aggression, has caused alarm from Washington to London, bne IntelliNews learned.

The meeting of the heads of the branches of government and several hundred officials from across the country was not live, and only sections of the meeting were broadcast.

Earlier, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations said that the Islamic Republic has shown “considerable restraint” in the face of recent Israeli aggression but warned that this patience has limits, ISNA reported. 

Addressing a UN Security Council session on April 2, Zahra Ershadi said Iran reserves its legitimate and inalienable right, based on international law and the UN Charter, to “respond to such reprehensible acts decisively.”

Ershadi said Israel has violated not only the UN Charter and international law, but also Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, denounced the aggression, saying attacks on diplomatic headquarters are never acceptable. His comments have been echoed by several regional neighbours worried about a spillover effect of the situation. 

Emirates News Agency WAM quoted a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that the UAE condemns the targeting of the Iranian diplomatic mission in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Robert Wood, the representative of the United States, denied his country’s engagement in the attack, which he said had been directly communicated to Iran, warning against any retaliation by the Islamic Republic on this ground.

"We will not hesitate to defend our personnel and repeat our prior warnings to Iran and its proxies not to take advantage of the situation - again, an attack in which we had no involvement or advanced knowledge - to resume their attacks on US personnel," said deputy US ambassador to the UN, Reuters reported.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had earlier held the US accountable for the aggression and summoned a Swiss embassy diplomat representing US interests in Iran to underline Washington’s liability.