On the night of Monday, June 17, Iranian news agencies published a video clip of a Revolutionary Guards operation against Islamic State (ISIS) from 2017. The video shows General Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Guards’ expeditionary Quds Force, personally directing the operation in the Deir al-Zour area of eastern Syria and claiming that the missiles fired against ISIS positions accurately hit their targets.
The attack was retaliation for ISIS terrorist attacks on the Iranian parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini on June 7, 2017. Those attacks left 17 Iranians dead and injured 52 other people. The five ISIS terrorists also died.
The operation was named Laylat al-Qadr, or the “Night of Decree,” because it coincided with a night during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims believe the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Mohammad.
In a statement issued on the night of the attacks, the Revolutionary Guards pledged to take revenge. “The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has proven that it will take revenge for any innocent bloodshed,” said the statement. Eleven days later, late on June 18, 2017, the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force fired six medium-range ballistic missiles from the western Iranian provinces of Kurdistan and Kermanshah toward the Syrian province of Deir al-Zour, 650 kilometers away, aiming at “the headquarters, meeting place and suicide car assembly line...of ISIS terrorists,” according to a statement issued by the Guards after the attack.
Iranian news services published conflicting reports about the types of missiles used in the operation. According to Mehr News Agency, they were Shahab-3 ballistic missiles with a range of between 800 and 1,200 kilometers (745 miles), but Fars News Agency reported that the attack deployed Zolfaqar and Qiam-class missiles.
At the time, the Revolutionary Guards claimed that the missiles had hit their intended targets, killing a number of ISIS commanders and inflicting an “extensive” amount of damage and casualties on ISIS. ISIS confirmed the missile attacks but denied that any of its commanders had been killed and accused the Islamic Republic of targeting civilians.
Video of the Revolutionary Guards’ missile attacks on ISIS positions in Syria in 2017
“A Failed Operation”
Israeli sources, including the newspaper Haaretz, reported that the Guards had fired seven missiles and that the operation had failed. “Iran's missile attack on Islamic State targets in Syria on Sunday was by all accounts, a resounding failure,” a Haaretz report said. “Of the seven missiles fired at the ISIS-held Syrian town of Deir el-Zour, only two were reported to have reached their target. Three of the rockets fell outside Syrian territory, in Iraq, while the remaining two fell somewhere inside Syria, missing their targets by many kilometers... Israeli military sources told Haaretz that the operational results of the Iranian missile attack was ‘a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch.’”
Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force, denied claims that the missile attacks had failed. “The missiles that we used in this operation are of a type that jettisons part of its body 100 kilometers before the warhead hits the target,” he said. “The operation was planned in a way that this part was to fall to the ground in Iraq.”
“In this operation,” reported Fars News Agency, “six medium-range, ground to ground, ballistic missiles that were fired from the Guards’ Aerospace Force missile bases in the provinces of Kurdistan and Kermanshah accurately hit their target in Deir al-Zour after crossing the skies over Iraq.”
Speaking to the families of killed border guards and members of Iran’s expeditionary force in Syria, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, “The Islamic Republic is standing firm and you can be sure that they cannot slap us in the face.” Then he added: “We will slap them back.” The newly-released video begins with the same quotation from Khamenei.
The Supreme Leader, the Guards and Commander Soleimani all insist the Laylat al-Qadr operation was successful, and presumably this is why they have chosen to mark the anniversary by releasing the video. But if it was so successful, why did they wait two years to release it? Judging by some news reports and analysis, the operation was far from a success, so it is not clear why the clip has been presented to the public now.
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