Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had no presence in the military bases bombed by the United States, an IRGC general and a member of the Iranian parliament reiterated on Sunday.
Esmail Kowsari, who is of many IRGC senior officers in the hardliner faction in the parliament, reiterated that if there were any Iranian bases among the targets hit by the US in Iraq and Syria, Tehran would have retaliated. He also dismissed any role in the drone attack in Jordan on January 28 that killed three US soldiers and precipitated current tensions.
In the meantime, the United States and Britain launched strikes against 36 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, in the second day of major US operations against Iran-linked groups. The strikes hit buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems, launchers and other capabilities the Houthis have used to attack Red Sea shipping, the Pentagon said, adding it targeted 13 locations across the country.
US officials had warned during the week that they were planning a string of attacks on Iran-affiliated targets in the region, and that the retaliatory operation would not be limited to one massive attack.
The action against the Houthis seems to have proven that threat. "This collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels," US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
Iran seeing the writing on the wall tries to disassociate itself from the US strikes on its proxies. Kowsari, when asked if Iran would retaliate, said, "These attacks have no connection to Iran at all. But if the slightest action threatens our resources or interests by the United States, we will undoubtedly and certainly respond with a crushing blow that they will regret."
It is noteworthy that the first wave of retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria took place five days after the attack on the US base in Jordan, leading to criticism that IRGC personnel and senior proxy leaders had ample time to vacate military bases and potential target areas.
Attacks by Iran-backed armed groups started in mid-October after the Gaza war began and so far more than 160 such strikes on US forces in Iraq and Syria have taken place using drones and rockets. The US has retaliated several times against militia targets, but critics say without inflicting pain on the Iranian regime, which is the main sponsor of these groups, nothing will change. Tehran is ready to sacrifice Arab and Afghan fighters it employs, so any retaliation should be aimed at deterring Iran’s rulers.
Official Iranian statements and media coverage of US airstrikes on Saturday indicated that the concerns about a serious retaliation have dissipated and Tehran can move on with pursuing its regional policies.
By Sunday, Iran’s battered currency continued to rise and regained half of the losses it had sustained since early January, once the US strikes appeared to be limited to militia targets, and not directly aimed at any Iranian assets.
However, any increase in tensions with the United States could lead to further currency losses less than four weeks from parliamentary elections, already marred by voter apathy.