Around 30 officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their guests gathered Thursday night in a villa in Tehran to celebrate the downing of a US drone.
“A special blessing for the commander who ordered the attack on the American drone and for the fighters who carried it out,” said a preacher, according to a guest who spoke with The New York Times.
According to the report, Revolutionary Guard officials were somewhat surprised they had succeeded in shooting the drone out of the sky and had in fact only attempted the operation to see if it was possible, according to that guest, and four others, including two senior current members of the Guard, and two former members.
According to the sources, the elite military unit, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had been maddened by recent statements from the Trump administration calling into question the abilities of the IRGC.
The officials felt further joy when they heard that US President Donald Trump had called off retaliatory strikes 10 minutes before they were to be carried out after being told some 150 people could die.
The aborted attack was the closest the US has come to a direct military strike on Iran in the year since the administration pulled out of the 2015 international agreement intended to curb the Iranian nuclear program and launched a campaign of increasing economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.
“What happened in the past 48 hours was extremely important in showing Iran’s strength and forcing the US to recalculate,” political analyst and former member of the Guards’ political bureau Naser Imani told the Times. “No matter how you look at it, Iran won.”
A top commander in the Guard Corps said Friday Iran could have downed an aircraft carrying American personnel on Thursday, but chose not to do so.
The United States reportedly launched cyber attacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network in response to the downing of the drone. The attack crippled computers used to control rocket and missile launches, according to the Washington Post, which cited people familiar with the matter.
The downing of the drone — which Washington insists was over international waters but Tehran says was inside its airspace — has seen tensions between the two countries spike further after a series of attacks on tankers the US and its staunch ally, Saudi Arabia, as well as reportedly Israel, have blamed on Iran.
Tehran denies having been behind those attacks but has frequently threatened in the past to block the vital sea lanes into and out of the Gulf.
A top Iranian military official on Saturday pledged to “set fire to the interests of America and its allies” if the US attacks.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have grown sharply since May last year when Trump unilaterally abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, and reimposed sweeping sanctions. The international agreement intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from earlier sanctions.
The US has since bolstered its military presence in the Middle East and blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.