The Iranian Response to the 2017 ISIL Assault: A Defensive Chronicle

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Iran officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is an adversary of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, opposing the group in Syria and Iraq. Iran was the first government to pledge aid to Iraq to fight ISIL, deploying troops in early June 2014 following the North Iraq offensive. President of Iraq Fuad Masum has lauded Iran as “the first country to supply weapons to Iraq to fight against the ISIL Takfiri terrorists”. Iran’s Quds Force is a “key participant ” in the military intervention against ISIL and its “mastermind” leader Major General Qassem Soleimani preserved a frequent presence in Iraq while his sights on the battlefield were regularly published. IS with its infectious anti-Shi’i ideology, struck the majority Shi’a nation. In June 2017, four ISIS terrorists undertook a brazen assault on Iran’s parliament, claiming 18 lives. 

In retribution, on 18 June 2017, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fired six domestically-developed Zolfaghar ballistic missiles, with a range of over 400 miles, against IS targets in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor. The IRGC again projected missiles in early September 2018 against the KDP-I, ousted in bases in Iraq, in revenge for their alleged attacks on Iranian military forces. 

Back in 2018, ISIL bombarded an Iranian military parade on Sept. 22 in Ahvaz (“Ahwaz” in Arabic). The al-Ahwaz National Resistance, an umbrella campaign for Arab separatist groups, also declared responsibility for that attack. However, the Ahvaz group had never executed such a brazen attack before, preferring to undermine Iran’s pipeline facilities, usually at night. ISIL, on the other hand, blasted Iran’s parliament in 2017 in broad daylight.

Iran avenged with ballistic missiles to strike the ISIL-held town of Hajin in eastern Syria. When it lost all of its region in the east of Syria, ISIL allegedly kept some grids alive in the rebel-held Idlib. Even though the Jan. 3 attack was declared by the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) the IRGC explained attacking Syria instead of Afghanistan by claiming that ISKP terrorists obtain training in Idlib from ISIL and are then repositioned to Afghanistan by the U.S. 

Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran Javad Zarif has expressed ISIL as an “ideological sibling” to Al-Qaeda, counting “the so-called Islamic State, is neither Islamic nor a state”. Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei has frankly commented on the American-led intervention in Iraq and the Combined Joint Task Force: “On the issue of DAESH, they formed a coalition. Of course, they are lying and this is a hypocritical act. They wrote a letter to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying, “If you say that US gives weapons to DAESH, this is a lie and we are not sustaining them”. Well, a short time after that, the photos that showed that the US gives weapons to DAESH were published.

Moreover, Iran threatened ISIL that driving to attack Baghdad or holy shrines of Shia Imams and getting near the Iran-Iraq border is “over the red lines” and if they are crossed, Iran will confront in direct action. In September 2014, the Iranian paper Islamic Republican mentioned Hadana news noting “ISIL designated Emir for Iran and several of his aides were captured by security bodies”.

In the same month, Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli reported Iran had arrested several supposed members of ISIL trying to enter Iran. He stated that two or three of them have revealed that “entering Iran has been among the objectives of the ISIL” and disregarded the reports on the ISIL’s move to recruit members inside Iran.

Furthermore, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted a large-scale military training on the country’s western border with Iraq in December 2023, in what it characterized as an exercise to oppose “terrorist” threats coming from Sunni extremist groups, particularly the Islamic State.

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