The statement made by the spokesman for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Ramadan Sharif, regarding the attack launched by Hamas against Israel on October 7, was not a “slip of the tongue,” as observers who spoke to the Al-Hurra website believe, but rather carries connotations, part of which is related to the timing.
Sharif said in striking words that contradicted the previous official position, and according to official media reports, that the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation was one of the retaliatory operations in response to the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani was killed by an American air strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. He was the commander of the Quds Force in charge of foreign operations in the Revolutionary Guard, and one of the most prominent implementers of Tehran’s regional policy.
In a rare discrepancy in public, Hamas denied in a statement “the veracity of what was stated by the spokesman of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Ramadan Sharif, regarding the Al-Aqsa Flood operation and its motives.”
Its statement after the denial stated: “We have repeatedly emphasized the motives and reasons for Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, foremost among which are the dangers threatening Al-Aqsa Mosque,” adding: “We also confirm that all Palestinian resistance actions come in response to the presence of the occupation and its continued aggression against our people and our sanctities.”
The striking statement by the spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards comes two days after the killing of senior leader Radhi Mousavi in the Syrian capital, Damascus, as a result of a three-missile strike that Tehran attributed to Israel, and which the latter has not yet claimed.
It is also considered contrary to the official position followed by officials in Tehran regarding the Hamas attack and the subsequent war that Israel started, which is still ongoing and is approaching its third month.
“Not a slip of the tongue”
Over the past weeks, Iranian officials, led by the President, Ebrahim Raisi, and before him the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, have maintained that they “had no prior knowledge” of the attack launched by Hamas on October 7.
They still maintain at the political level that they were not involved in what happened, although they indicate that they “continue to support the resistance,” as they put it.
Al-Hurra website contacted three analysts who adopt the official narrative in Iran to comment on the striking and contradictory statement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard spokesman, and they refused to go into any details due to the “sensitivity of the matter.”
For his part, the Palestinian political researcher, Dr. Majed Azzam, believes that “the statement was striking and had many implications,” whether on the part of Iran, or in relation to the quick denial issued by Hamas.”
Azzam believes that “Hamas’s quick response of denial is related to the broad support and alignment in the Arab and Islamic street, especially the rejection of Iran’s policies, practices, and sectarian policy in the region, specifically in Syria and Iraq.”
He told the “Al-Hurra” website that he “gives insistence on the Palestinian narrative that the matter did not begin on October 7, but on May 15, 1948, to resist the suffocation and killing of Gaza, to resist the siege, settlement, and Judaization, and to close all horizons to the Palestinians’ right to an independent state.”
Regarding Iran, Azzam believes that “Sharif’s statement was not a slip of the tongue,” but rather there are clear reasons and backgrounds behind it.
Among these reasons is “the guards’ attempt to say that it was a response to the killing of Soleimani, knowing that there was nothing like this 3 years ago,” according to the Palestinian researcher.
He points out other reasons: “Iran wants to make its mark, to say that it is a partner in the preparation and resistance to the Al-Aqsa Flood, a partner in it,” which is something that its officials themselves have previously denied.
“To save face”
The killing of the senior and most senior leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Radhi Mousavi, was a major blow to Tehran, after he was targeted in a house in the Sayyida Zeinab area, after he was coming from the Iranian embassy in Damascus.
While the Iranians have repeatedly threatened over the past two days to “respond in the appropriate place and time,” observers have made it clear that this language may not be translated into reality, given the background of the confrontation between Iran and Israel in Syria and other places.
Hamid Reda Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told Al-Hurra that the rationale behind ruling out a response “is related to Tehran’s reluctance to engage in outright war with Israel.”
In the current context in particular, in the midst of the war in Gaza, Iranian officials see the Israeli move, including the assassination of Mousavi, “as a potential calculated attempt by the Israelis to provoke Tehran into a conflict,” according to Azizi.
The American researcher in Middle East affairs, Ryan Pohl, considers the statement of the spokesman for the “Revolutionary Guard” to be considered “more of a political statement than a confession.”
He explained to Al-Hurra website that what reinforces this is “Hamas’ statement saying that October 7 was not revenge for Soleimani.”
If nothing else, Pohl points out, “Iran may try to find ways to demand revenge for Soleimani years after it happened, given that its previous claims of revenge were disappointing.”
Although Pohl does not rule out the reasons for issuing the statement in order to “save face” after Mousavi’s killing in Damascus, he expects “some symbolic revenge in the next stage. Perhaps missiles from Syria or a long-range attack from Lebanon.”
“Statement summarizing the scene”
The outcome of Mousavi’s killing in Damascus is not yet known. He is the first Iranian leader to be killed outside the borders after former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an American strike near Baghdad airport in early 2020.
In addition to its repeated and continuous denials of its involvement in planning the Hamas attack, Tehran had informed the leader of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, in November that it “will not fight on behalf of the movement,” according to what Reuters previously reported from more than one source.
The matter was not limited to that, as a Hamas official explained to Reuters last month that “Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei urged Haniyeh to silence those voices in the Palestinian movement that are openly calling on Iran and its strong Lebanese ally, the Hezbollah group, to join the battle against Israel.” “With full force.”
Palestinian researcher Azzam points out “the accusations leveled by circles within Hamas against Iran since the start of the war in Gaza that it did not respond, did not participate, and did not work to truly activate the unity of the arenas in Syria and Lebanon.”
He believes that the Revolutionary Guards’ statement falls within the framework of its attempt to say that “Iran is present.”
The statement also indicates, on the other hand, that “there will be no response to the killing of Mousavi, and that Iran does not have to do so directly.”
“An honorable speech summed up the scene,” Azzam continues, considering that the Hamas attack on October 7 “occurred with the resistance’s own and internal capabilities, while Iran and its allies did not provide anything compared to the statements they made over the past years.”
Iran has a long history of training and arming armed militias in the region, from Gaza to Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
It had supported Hamas and helped it design and produce a missile system in Gaza, the poor and densely populated coastal enclave.
While it recently denied knowledge of the October 7th attack, it tended to deny its connection to the attacks that targeted American forces in Syria and Iraq, more than 100 times, since October 17th.
Attacks were also launched by the Houthis in Yemen, which recently resulted in the paralysis of navigation, which required the United States of America to form a force to protect international trade ships as they passed through the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait.