Iran demonstrates missile capabilities with regional strikes

File photo showing members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) standing next to a Kheibar Shekan (Castle Buster) ballistic missile during a rally in Tehran, Iran, on 29 April 2022
Image caption,The IRGC said it used a Kheibar Shekan (Castle Buster) ballistic missile to target “terrorist groups” in north-west Syria

By Jiyar Gol

BBC Persian

With its strikes on Iraqi, Syrian and Pakistani territory, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) is showing it has become a major regional military power.

The IRGC openly states that US bases in the Middle East, as well as Israeli bases in Tel Aviv and Haifa, are within range of its ballistic missiles.

In the space of only 24 hours, it gave a stark demonstration of its capabilities, launching missiles and drones at targets in three different countries.

On Tuesday evening the IRGC attacked two targets inside neighbouring Pakistan, with media close to the force reporting that the strikes destroyed two bases of the militant group Jaish al-Adl in retaliation for the killing of Iranian border guards in recent weeks.

Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni group that says it is fighting for the rights of ethnic Baloch people in south-eastern Iran, said two houses where the families of its members were living were hit.

Pakistan called the strikes “completely unacceptable”, saying they resulted in the death of two children, and warned of “serious consequences”.

There was similar condemnation from Iraq, Iran’s western neighbour, after the IRGC launched 11 ballistic missiles at Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.

At least four civilians were killed, according to the regional government, whose Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called the attack a “crime against the Kurdish people”.

Fars news agency, which is close to the IRGC, claimed that “headquarters” of Israel’s Mossad spy agency were destroyed in the strikes. The Kurdistan Region Security Council said it categorically rejected the “unfounded pretext”, while Israel remained silent.

An Iraqi Kurdish man inspects the damage following an overnight Iranian missile attack on the city of Irbil, northern Iraq (16 January 2024)
Image caption,The prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region called the Iranian strikes on Irbil a “crime against the Kurdish people”

Four of the IRGC’s missiles destroyed the home of the prominent Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee. He was killed in the attack, reportedly alongside his 11-month-daughter.

An adviser to Mr Barzani said it was “absolutely preposterous to suggest [he] was involved in any kind of espionage, that he worked for Israel”, but Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian insisted on Wednesday that the IRGC did not make a mistake.

Dizayee owned and founded two companies – Falcon Group and Empire World – following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was close to the powerful Barzani family, which is headed by the prime minister’s father and Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani.

The Falcon Group operates in various sectors, including security, construction, and oil and gas. Its security division has provided assistance to Western representatives and companies in Iraq.

The Irbil attack appeared to underscore the message that not only can the IRGC carry out precision strikes, but also that it has the ability to strike military installations near Irbil’s international airport, where US and other foreign forces are stationed.

The IRGC’s claim to have targeted Israeli facilities in Irbil also served a domestic political purpose in Iran, following a suspected Israeli strike in Syria on 25 December that killed a senior commander.

Peshraw Dizayee standing in front of a sign for one of his firms, Empire World
Image caption,One of the four civilians reported killed in Irbil was Peshraw Dizayee, a prominent Kurdish businessman

Monday night also saw the IRGC launch ballistic missiles at what it said were the bases of Islamic State (IS) group and “terrorist groups” in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib.

Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of the Syrian opposition after 12 years of war against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, who has managed to stay in power because of the military backing of Russia and Iran. The Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sharm (HTS) dominates Idlib, although IS and al-Qaeda are also present there.

The IRGC said the strikes in Idlib were carried out in retaliation for twin IS suicide bomb attacks in Kerman, in southern Iran, on 3 January, which killed 94 people. The bombers targeted crowds gathered near the tomb of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani to mark the fourth anniversary of his assassination in a US drone strike.

The IRGC said it used a Kheibar Shekan (Castle Buster) missile, which can travel up to 1,450km (900 miles), to target Idlib.

It also said the missile was launched from the southern province of Khuzestan, even though it could have done so from the western province of Azerbaijan, which is much closer to Syria.

The choice of missile and launch location suggest that Iran wants to convey to the world its ability to reach various locations in Israel, which borders Syria.

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