TEHRAN: Iran has targeted jihadists in Syria with missiles in retaliation for deadly attacks in Tehran, but the strike was also a message to its regional rivals and Washington, experts say.
Late Sunday, the elite Revolutionary Guards launched six missiles from western Iran into Syria´s mostly Islamic State group-held Deir Ezzor province, hitting an IS command base, the Guards said.
The strike was “revenge” for twin attacks in Tehran on June 7 that killed 17 people in the first IS-claimed attacks inside the Shiite-ruled Islamic republic, a Guards spokesman added.
As well as punishing “terrorists”, it was intended to show that Iran is capable of projecting military power across the region, officials and experts said.
Tehran has devoted vast military and financial resources to propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a six-year civil war.
It has also sent thousands of recruits to fight in Syria and battle IS in neighbouring Iraq, according to officials.
But Sunday´s strike was the first known missile attack launched from Iran into foreign territory since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.
“The missile attacks were only a small part of Iran´s punitive power against terrorists and enemies,” Guards spokesman General Ramezan Sharif said Monday.
“International and regional supporters of the terrorists must realise the warning message of the missile operation.”
Iran has long accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of backing “terrorists” — a catch-all phrase for rebels and jihadist groups fighting the Assad regime.
US President Donald Trump meanwhile accuses Iran of backing terrorism — a charge it denies — and has threatened to tear up a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.