Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Shirazi, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Islamic Republic’s Qods Force, said this week that
Iran needed just “24 hours and an excuse” to destroy Israel.
In his first
public interview in a year, reported in the Persian-language Jahan News, which is
close to the regime, Shirazi said if Israel attacked Iran, the Islamic Republic
would be able to turn the conflict into a war of attrition that would lead to
“If such a war does happen, it would not be a long
war, and it would benefit the entire Islamic umma [the global community of
Muslims]. We have expertise in fighting wars of attrition and Israel cannot
fight a war of attrition,” Shirazi said, referring to Iran’s eight-year war of
attrition against Iraq.
Khamenei appointed Shirazi a year ago as his
representative to the Qods Force, the highly secretive extraterritorial wing of
the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which reports directly to
The Qods Force, whose exact size is unknown, is responsible for
IRGC operations outside Iran, including in Syria.
In August, the US
Department of the Treasury identified the Qods Force as “a conduit for Iran’s
material support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate,” and in 2011
designated Qods Force commander Maj.-Gen. Ghassem Suleimani as a terrorist for
his personal support of the Syrian regime.
In his interview, Shirazi said
that Israel was “close to annihilation” and wanted to attack Iran as an act of
“Are our enemies intelligent, wise or foolish? They are
foolish. It’s also possible that they will do this foolish thing [and
attack Iran]. Why do we sometimes say this is the strongest probability? Because
today the Israelis are telling us that ‘we are not the Israel of yesterday, we
are getting weaker day by day and the Islamic Republic is getting stronger day
by day,’” he added.
“Well, when Israel finds itself in danger of
extinction, it flails around, and so it’s easy for it to do foolish things and
will start a war just to sting Iran.”
Shirazi’s remarks echo those of
other senior Iranian military leaders, who have repeatedly threatened to respond
to any attack by the US and its allies on its nuclear facilities by engaging in
a war of attrition.
Iran has also repeatedly paraded what it claims are
advances in military technologies, including in ballistic missile technologies,
which could be used in such a war.
Significantly, in his interview,
Shirazi also denied reports that Suleimani had been killed in the July 18
bombing in Damascus, which killed several of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s top
“There was too much talk in the media, which even said that
Suleimani was involved in the conflict and in the bombing in Syria, and some
even said that he was killed,” Shirazi said. “But Suleimani wasn’t in Syria; on
that day, he was in Iran.”
Although Suleimani has not appeared in public
since the bombing, the Iranian state media later published what it claimed to be
a photograph of the Qods Force leader attending a July 24 address by
And while a spokesman for the IRGC also dismissed reports of
Suleimani’s death, around 10 day ago the Iranian Students’ News Agency published
what it alleged was a 1989 interview with the Qods Force commander that included
extremely detailed biographical information – an unusual move, especially given
that little is known about Suleimani.
Ali Alfoneh, an expert on the IRGC
from the American Enterprise Institute, questioned why the Islamic Republic
would allow its media to release such private information now.
Suleimani really dead and is this article an attempt to beatify a martyr? It may
take some time before we will know the answer, but one thing is for sure: If
Suleimani indeed was killed in Damascus, the regime would not admit
“The regime is therefore likely to stage Suleimani’s assassination by
an obscure terrorist organization inside of Iran.
Helping the Assad
regime to kill women and children in Syria is hardly a legacy the state
propaganda machine wishes for its martyr,” Alfoneh wrote.