January 8, 2020 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1496

The Iran-U.S. Crisis Part II – Iran, The Paper Tiger

January 8, 2020 | By A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1496


In the crisis with the U.S., Iran has yielded. On the morning of January 8, Iran carried out a dummy attack designed to save face, launching missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq and succeeding in killing and wounding – no one.

Iran is now turning to diplomacy as it strives for the political achievement that violent extortion and threats of terrorism have failed to bring about – the retreat of U.S. forces from Iraq and the region.

Coverage Of The Attack In The Iranian Media

It should be noted that the Iranian regime, headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has launched a propaganda campaign in the media, claiming that 80 Americans were killed and 200 were wounded in a large-scale attack – a fact which, they claim, the U.S. is covering up.[1] Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the Guardian Council, has even claimed that the U.S. base in Ein Al-Assad was destroyed completely.[2]

The anti-U.S. media of Turkey and Qatar are similarly exaggerating the supposed achievement of the missile strike on the U.S. bases in Iraq, in an effort to support Iran and present it as powerful and deserving of political concessions.  

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quick to announce following the attack that Iran does not want war, without conditioning this on an American retreat from Iraq.

Iranian TV, January 6, 2020

Khamenei's Iranian Regime – A Paper Tiger

Foreign Minister Zarif said that the Iranian regime had informed Iraq of its plans to launch missiles at the U.S. bases in advance, with the intention that Iraq would then inform the U.S. so that precautions would be taken to prevent the loss of life.[3]

Furthermore, according to an exclusive January 8 Iran Wire report, an unnamed Iranian diplomat had revealed that the missile attack had been launched after several days of discussion by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, and was "deliberately aimed at military bases and infrastructure and not personnel." The diplomat added that some IRGC officers had insisted that Iran's vengeance on the U.S. must be restrained "because killing Americans will cause an all-out war, which will cause massive destruction in Iran and might even bring down the regime."[4]

Regime spokesmen threatened to retaliate more strongly against the U.S. and Israel if the U.S. responded to the planned Iranian attack.

Iran's current behavior exposes its weakness, revealing it to be a paper tiger.

The following is a list of the threats made by leaders of the Iranian regime, and of the scope and consequences of the actual attack:

List Of Main Iranian Threats

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted on January 3, 2020 that "severe revenge" awaits the Americans.

IRGC commander Gen. Hossein Salami said on January 7, at Soleimani's funeral in his home town of Kerman: "Let me start at the end: We shall exact revenge! "We shall exact revenge and it will be hard and severe, the kind of severe that causes remorse, decisive and final... No spot anywhere will be safe for the Americans... We say to the Americans: You have set all your investments on fire with this cowardly assassination..."[5]

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Senior IRGC Commander Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi warned, on a January 3 television program: "We have various capabilities and weapons. We can do things to them in land and in sea... launch a few missiles or kill several of their senior officers... The U.S. is not safe anywhere in the world – not only in Iran and Iraq, but in the other Islamic countries as well. America has no security anymore. Many young people now have the motivation to attack it... The pressure America exerts on the Islamic nation will lead the peoples of the Islamic countries to pull them out of their nests of spies [i.e. U.S. Embassies] and their military bases... They will pull them out and hang them blindfolded from the trees in their cities..."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Nakdi also said that the White House should quickly withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq – or order coffins.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Adm. Ali Shamkhani said on January 7: "...We announce this so that the Americans know: So far, 13 different plans for vengeance have been proposed in the council. If a consensus is reached, even if it is for the least intense plan [of the 13 proposed plans], its execution could become an historic nightmare for the Americans...

"The Americans know they are very vulnerable when facing Iran... Most of their forces are located in bases... they know Iran's long-range capabilities and know that Iran's response is very likely to be with long- and medium-range missiles, which are a threat primarily to their scattered patrol units...

"The American people will itself feel the heavy cost of its administration's terror operations in our region. For this reason, our response will target American forces in the region, and we emphasize that these forces must be obliterated. If they want to fortify themselves in bases, we will destroy the bases in addition to their forces.

"Do you want to know what will be the fate of the Americans who crawled into bomb shelters? The answer is clear. Those who crawl into bomb shelters and close the door, hoping to escape retaliation, do not know that Iran will open the gates of hell on them... Thus, if the American forces do not leave our region vertically, on their own feet, we will make sure that their bodies leave horizontally."[6]

The commander of the IRGC Tharallah Division in the city of Kerman, Gholem Ali Abu Hamza, on January 3, 2020, at the mourning ceremony for Soleimani in his birthplace Kerman, threatened attacks on U.S. naval targets, apparently aircraft carriers, with surface-to-sea missiles, and added that Iran had identified 35 American targets: "The Islamic Republic will strike back everywhere in the world for the betrayal and brutality that martyred Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] and his companions. The Islamic Republic has in its hands open [response options], and we will punish them anywhere the Americans are on the radar of the Islamic Republic... Every U.S. cruiser [sic] and destroyer passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf is on our radar. When we refer to a cruiser [likely a reference to an aircraft carrier], the closest path [for us to strike] using surface-to-sea missiles is in the Strait of Hormuz, in proximity to hundreds of helicopters and airplanes and thousands of soldiers.

"The Strait of Hormuz is the primary shipping lane, and the most vital to the West. Over 60%-70% percent of the West's oil passes through it. We have identified 35 points among the vital American positions in the Middle East; they are on our radar. The lives, heart, [and] spirit... of America, Tel Aviv, and Israel are on our radar. We have Shahab-3 missiles with a range of 2,000 km. At every single point in the countries of the Middle East, we, all those who are faithful to the resistance of the Islamic Revolution of the Rule of the Jurisprudent and to the values of Qassem Soleimani, say that we will absolutely avenge the blood of Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] and the other martyrs."[7]

Former Iranian diplomat Amir Moussavi said on January 4 on Al-Jazeera TV that the Supreme National Security Council had sent orders sanctioned by Khamenei, to all branches of the military, who are now waiting for zero hour. He added that Iran has a blacklist of U.S. politicians and military personnel and that "the Iranian hand will reach them."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:  

The Kayhan daily, the regime mouthpiece, wrote on its January 5 front page: "The Islamic Republic's response to America's criminal operation will be determined, swift, and lamentable." Its January 5 editorial warned: "From this day forward, both the Americans and the Zionists should live in fear of reprisal for this crime. They must be ready, anytime and anyplace, for the harsh response. The American president and the Zionist regime's prime minister must hear the outcry of the Iranian nation and the nations in the region [stating] 'We will lie in wait for you.' They must know that all their bases and forces – which are terrorist bases and forces – are not safe, not [only] in the region but across [the entire] world. They must know that we will not avenge the blood of this brave martyr once, but drop by drop, several times over – and [America] will be slapped so hard that the entire world will hear it; this slap will impact the entire international and regional equation."

Majlis National Security Committee chairman Hujjat Al-Islam Mojtaba Zolnour said on January 5: "...As of today, most of their forces in the region are within our range of fire. Of the 36 American bases in the region, from the closest [to Iran] in Bahrain to Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, which is thought to be the farthest [from Iran], all are within range of our missiles. They also cannot withdraw most of their forces from the region..."[8]

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami warned that Iran's response could come anywhere in the world.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

The scope of the attack, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, was over a dozen ballistic missiles (according to Iranian TV it was 15) at two bases in Ein Al-Assad and Irbil, Iraq, with zero casualties.[9]

* A. Savyon is Director of the Iran Media Studies Project; Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI.


[1] The regime-affiliated Mehr and Fars news agencies, January 8, 2020.

[2] Fars (Iran), January 8, 2020.

[3] Mehr (Iran), January 8, 2020.

[4], January 8, 2020.

[5] Mehr (Iran), January 7, 2020.

[6] Mehr (Iran), January 7, 2020.

[7] Mehr (Iran), January 4, 2020.

[8] ISNA (Iran), January 5, 2020.

[9], January 7, 2020.

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