Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has denounced the early morning April 14 missile strike on Syria, labeling it a crime and an act of aggression. I “firmly declare that the US president, the president of France, and the Prime Minister of Britain have committed a major crime,” he told an audience of government officials and diplomats from several Muslim countries. “They will gain no benefit, just as they did not benefit in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan over the past years, committing the same criminal acts.”
He rejected President Trump’s claims that the US had played a key role in the fight against ISIS. “In his speech a few hours ago, the US president said they could defeat ISIS in Syria — another shameless and obvious lie! It was the Resistance Front that was able to save Iraq and Syria.” By the “Resistance Front,” Khamenei was referring to Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi paramilitary groups aligned with Iran.
He also accused Saudi Arabia of being the “piggy bank” for terrorist groups like ISIS. “Using the Saudis’ and their allies’ money, they [the Americans] could create these vile creatures that attack the nations of Iraq and Syria,” he stated.
What was more striking about Khamenei’s speech, however, was his description of the British and French leaders as “criminals.” Since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, he has put the future of the 2015 nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), in doubt. So Iran has looked to European countries to save the JCPOA. But now that Khamenei has called the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the French President Emmanuel Macron “criminals,” the situation is bound to become more complicated.
Americans “Want to Justify Their Presence”
Speaking at the same gathering as Ayatollah Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani said the Americans were angry “because the terrorist groups that they support have failed in Eastern Ghouta,” the suburb of Damascus that was recaptured from anti-Assad forces during the week of April 10. “US aggression will have no result in the region except for destruction and annihilation, and they want to justify their presence in the region with these aggressions”.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry called on the world community to condemn the missile strike on Syria. The attack, said a statement released by the ministry, “amounts to a flagrant breach of international laws and principles, and a violation of Syria’s right to national sovereignty and territorial integrity...the US and its allies are responsible and should be held accountable for the consequences of this adventurism both in the region and beyond, as they have taken military action against Syria and put themselves in the position of the global judge and police.” It went on to say there was “no substantiated evidence” that Syria had used chemical weapons and that the military action taken by the US and its allies had taken place before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had officially given its assessment of the situation.
Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, defended Iran’s military role in Syria and called the attack “a flagrant violation of the international law.”
Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, head of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, called the claims that the Syrian regime had carried out chemical attacks a lie. “The Americans think that by taking such action they can change the facts on the ground in Syria,” he told Fars News Agency [Persian link]. “This is not going to happen...These attacks are not going to change the trends, but will make things more complicated...The American should expect consequences for their actions.”
The Terrorists Did it
General Hossein Dehghan, Khamenei’s advisor for military industries and a former Iranian defense minister, called the attack against Syria an act of deceit [Persian link]. “All chemical armaments and tools in Syria are under the control of the terrorists,” he said, and said these terrorists were responsible for the chemical attack. General Dehghan’s claim resembles Russian assertions that the British intelligence services had masterminded the recent chemical attack in Syria.
On his Instagram page, Mohsen Rezaee, secretary of the Expediency Council, called the limited missile attack on Syria “a face-saving” action for the American president. “It is time for Mr. Trump to yield to a political solution in Syria,” he wrote.
On April 13, the eve of the attack, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to the Supreme Leader in international affairs and a key player in Iranian diplomacy in the region — he had visited Syria only a few days before — implicitly confirmed that Iran’s goal was to drive the US out of Syria. Regarding the missile strike, he said: “The war is decided on the ground, not in the air.” [Persian link].
Before the morning missile attack on Syria on Saturday, April 14, senior Iranian officials were cautious in the way they characterized the prospects of such a move. But now that the allies have carried out the strike, and it has proved to be a limited one, they talk more aggressively, and with more confidence.
More on Iran’s military interventions in the region:
Iran’s Multi-Purpose Proxy in Iraq and Syria, March 2018
“Iran’s Behavior Confirms Saudi and American Accusations”, November 2017
Ghasem Soleimani: ISIS is Finished, November 2017
How Does Iran Justify its Role in Syria?, September 2017
Iran's Armed Diplomacy in the Middle East, July 2017
Soleimani's Man in Iraq Killed by Islamic State, January 2015