April 20, 2024

Hezi Simantov, a commentator and correspondent for Arab affairs of ‘News 13’, spoke Tuesday morning with Nissim Mashal and Anat Davidov on 103FM about the assassination of the senior Iranian Mohammad Reza Zahedi, commander of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon, and the expected consequences.

First of all, according to the reports from Syria and Iran, the Israeli Air Force allegedly attacked a building adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, where several senior Iranian officials were located, among them Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who is actually the deputy commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards in Syria and Lebanon,” Simantov began. 

“A very senior member of the Iranian hierarchy, he managed the entire operation of smuggling weapons from Syria to Lebanon. He was a very senior person who can be said to have given Israel a lot of headaches in the last twenty years for all his exploits in his involvement in terrorism. This is the most senior Iranian who has been eliminated so far since October 7 on Syrian soil,” he continued.

“This is a severe and painful blow to the Iranian regime, a matter in which the Iranians are more inclined to take revenge against Israel. We have already eliminated several of their senior officials since October 7 on Syrian soil. This is the period when Iran wants to show that it is leading the axis of resistance. 

Hamas’s utility waning

“[As an Iranian asset] Hamas is currently at a disadvantage because of the fighting in Gaza, and this does not mean that tomorrow morning, the Iranians will try to do something impulsive. They will perhaps try to activate their militias in Syria or the Houthis in Yemen. 

Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attend an IRGC ground forces military drill in the Aras area, East Azerbaijan province, Iran, October 17, 2022 (credit: IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS)

This is something that has already happened and will continue to happen, but they are using, and you see the narrative in the Iranian media, that supposedly there is something diplomatic that has been harmed here,” he added.

“They are laying the groundwork to strike at Israeli diplomatic representations worldwide, in the Arab world, Europe, or the United States or South America,” Simantov said. “The assassination attributed to Israel certainly makes the confrontation between Iran and Israel more direct, rather than indirect, as it has been until now in Syria.” 

“Israel has very good intelligence about what is happening in Syria and Lebanon, unlike what is happening in the Gaza Strip, even before October 7,” he added. “There is still very good intelligence about these trained members of the Revolutionary Guards and senior Hezbollah figures in Lebanon and Syria. In my estimation, Iran is deterred from direct confrontation with the US. It does not want that. Iran does not want to bring the US into a direct military confrontation. 

“Therefore, this situation in which it is increasingly engaging in terrorism activities in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the envelope to pressure Israel – that is something it will continue to do. Direct confrontation with the US or with Israel that would involve the US – that is not what it wants to do, at least not at this stage, that could change,” Simantov concluded.