February 1, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran Evacuates IRGC Officers From Syria

February 1, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran Evacuates IRGC Officers From Syria

Latest Developments

Iran is pulling senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers out of Syria after facing a series of targeted airstrikes against its personnel, Reuters reported on February 1. An Iranian source also said that the evacuations will “help Tehran to avoid being pulled into the Israel-Gaza war.” Moving forward, Iran will reportedly rely more on its local proxies to manage operations in Syria. “The Iranians won’t abandon Syria,” another source close to Tehran said.

Expert Analysis

“Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes over the past decade to prevent Iran from delivering precision-guided munitions and other advanced weapons to Hezbollah via Syria. Hezbollah’s daily rocket and missile attacks on northern Israel since October have demonstrated the necessity of this persistent campaign.” — David Adesnik, FDD Senior Fellow and Director of Research

“The hope now is that Washington, in responding to the killing of three service members over the weekend, begins to target both regime assets and Shiite militia personnel in Syria. This is obviously distinct from the Israeli campaign. But both countries have legitimate targets to strike in Syria for similar reasons. After having perpetrated multiple acts of aggression in recent months, the Iran-backed militias and their Iranian advisors pose a threat that must be neutralized.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

Targeted Strikes

On January 20, an airstrike attributed to Israel struck an IRGC building in Damascus, killing five officers — including the IRGC’s Syria intelligence chief. On December 29, a strike on Damascus International Airport killed 11 IRGC members as they awaited the arrival of a senior delegation. Another strike in Damascus on December 25 killed Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a senior advisor in the IRGC and the official responsible for coordinating between Iran and Syria. Amid this slew of attacks, the IRGC reportedly expressed concern to Damascus that the precision strikes were made possible by an “intelligence breach” from within the Syrian security forces.

Campaign Between Wars

For years, Israel has been striking Iranian assets in Syria as part of a shadow operation known as the “campaign between wars.” Israel rarely takes responsibility for individual strikes, although it acknowledges a sustained effort to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria and the transport of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Asked about the December 25 airstrike that killed Mousavi, Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said he would not “comment on foreign reports” but that “the Israeli military obviously has a job to protect the security interests of Israel.”

The War After the War Between Wars,” by Jonathan Schanzer

The Quiet War between Israel and Iran,” by Jonathan Schanzer

Iranian Military Advisor Killed in Israeli Strike in Syria,” FDD Flash Brief

Breaking Precedent, Israel Provides Details of Syria Air Strike,” FDD Flash Brief


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