The Supreme Leader, again putting out a tough rhetorical line, has called on Iran’s forces to build missile capability.
In remarks published on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei praised Iran’s first missile strike inside Syria, carried out last month: “The enemy must be slapped in the face.”
The Revolutionary Guards fired six missiles from western Iran towards the Islamic State-held town of Mayadin in eastern Syria. The Guards claimed success — with the death toll of ISIS fighters, including commanders, varying from 50 to 300 — but Israeli officials said only one missile hit its target, and three fell short inside Iraq.
Khamenei’s website republished his injunction to Guards commanders, “Keep working on the missile program as far as you can. Look how sensitive the enemy is about missiles, so you should know that your work is highly important.”
"You did a perfect job, may God accept it from you. This was worship in #Ramadan."
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 5, 2017
The Supreme Leader emphasized that the missile attack had not taken any civilian lives.
Tough Talk from Washington
The circulation of Khamenei’s statements came as the Trump Administration and some US commentators put out their own challenging declarations on Wednesday.
“Senior Trump Administration officials” told a right-wing outlet that the US will take all necessary measures to maintain an exclusion zone in eastern Syria against Iranian-led foreign militias and Hezbollah.
One official pointed to three US airstrikes on pro-Assad forces — the first by the Americans since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011 — to maintain a 55-km (34-mile) zone around a base where the Free Syrian Army and US special forces are positioned near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders:
That was very clearly a process of the Iranians and Hezbollah and Syrian regime probing and testing our limits, and testing how much we were willing to do. In every case, it was a matter of them testing and probing, and us responding by defending ourselves.
The officials said Iran and Hezbollah were “violating a de-confliction measure that had been worked out with the Russians”.
Meanwhile, pundits with leading US think tanks have been calling for regime change in Iran. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in The Washington Post yesterday:
The task of a judicious U.S. government today is to plan for the probable outbreak of another protest movement or the sudden passing of Khamenei that could destabilize the system to the point of collapse. How can we further sow discord in Iran’s vicious factional politics? How can the United States weaken the regime’s already unsteady security services?
Takeyh’s invocation follows the July 4 declaration of Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies — conveniently distorting the historical record in a piece in The Wall Street Journal — that the US can collapse the Iranian regime with “a page from the playbook Ronald Reagan used against the Soviet Union”.