Israel appeared to have escalated its shadow war in Syria against Iran, with an airstrike against a military base that coordinates Iranian-backed militias (New York Times). Seven Iranian military personnel were killed in the strike on the Tiyas, or T4 airbase near Homs. Iranian state media initially said that three were members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the report was later withdrawn without explanation. Syria, Iran, and Russia have accused Israel of mounting the attack, though Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement. Israel has carried out several strikes in Syria in the past, some aimed at stopping what it says is a military buildup by Iran and its regional ally, Hezbollah, along the Syrian-Israeli border. The attack followed a vow by U.S. President Donald Trump to respond to an apparent chemical weapons attack on Saturday by the Syrian government near Damascus. It did not appear to have been in response to that event, raising the possibility that Israel had merely seized the opportunity to take out what it saw as a threat to its own security.
Tehran said that it will stand by Bashar Al-Assad in the event of a U.S.-led strike (The Guardian). Ali Akbar Velayati, a top foreign policy aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met with the Syrian president in Damascus on Thursday. He visited eastern Ghouta earlier in the week and rejected claims that the Syrian government was behind a suspected chemical attack. Velayati met Al-Assad in a show of defiance in the face of possible western retaliation for the attack. He said, “Like before, Iran will stand by Syria under any circumstances.” Adding that, “For seven years, an all-out war has been waged against the Syrian nation and its government led directly by the U.S. Syria is not weaker than seven years ago, nor is America any stronger.”
A senior Iranian foreign policy official warned Israel that its strike on an air base in Syria would “not remain without a response.” (New York Times)
Israel’s prime minister cautioned Iran not to challenge his country’s resolve as Tehran builds up its military presence in neighboring Syria (NBC News). On the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Our policy can be summed up in three words: aggression against aggression. I have a message to the Iranian rulers—do not test the determination of the State of Israel.”
Israel prepares for possible Iranian retaliation after strike on Syrian air force base (Haaretz).
Senior Israeli defense officials expressed concerns over the implications of last week’s Syria summit in Ankara (Israel Hayom).
Iranian media extensively covered and analyzed the airstrike on the T4 air base in Syria (Al-Monitor). While conservative outlets believe a U.S. military attack on Syria is likely, reformist outlets and figures are urging Iranian officials to avoid escalation.
Have Iran, Russia, and Turkey reached agreement on future Syrian state? (Al-Monitor)
The Iranian comedy series selling the war in Syria (IranWire).
CBS Evening News mistakenly displayed an image of Iran during a segment on military action in Syria (Mediaite).
Also, hackers attacked data centers in Iran (Reuters). According to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, “The attack apparently affected 200,000 router switches across the world in a widespread attack, including 3,500 switches” inside Iran. Hackers left the image of a U.S. flag on screens along with a warning: “Don’t mess with our elections.” It’s unclear who carried out the attack. Iran hasn’t meddled in U.S. elections.
Iran’s telecommunications minister criticized the Iranian government’s cyber-attack monitoring center for failing to detect the attack (RadioFarda). Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said in a tweet that MAHER, which is the Persian acronym for the Computer-related Events Operation and Coordination Center, “has monitored and controlled the attack and the data centers’ settings have been brought back to normal.” He added that MAHER should have issued a “special warning.” Jahromi promised that his ministry would investigate and deal with the failure.
IRGC to protect Iran’s missiles from cyberwarfare (IranWire).