Iran FM opens new Syria consulate after deadly strike

Top Iranian general killed in Damascus strike sat on Hezbollah’s decision-making body

Source in terror group says Quds Force commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi was only non-Lebanese member of powerful Shura Council

IRGC official Mohammad Reza Zahedi, in July 2, 2017. (Ali Khara/Fars Media Corporation, via Wikimedia CC BY 4.0)
IRGC official Mohammad Reza Zahedi, in July 2, 2017. (Ali Khara/Fars Media Corporation, via Wikimedia CC BY 4.0)

An Iranian general killed in a strike in Syria’s capital last week was a member of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, the powerful Lebanese terror group’s decision-making body, a source close to the movement said.

The April 1 airstrike leveled the Iranian embassy’s consular annex in Damascus, killing seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members, including two generals.

One of them was Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Quds Force, the Guards’ foreign operations arm.

Zahedi was the only non-Lebanese on Hezbollah’s eight-member Shura Council, the equivalent of the powerful Shiite terror group’s political bureau, led by Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, the source said, requesting anonymity because the matter is sensitive.

Nasrallah was set to speak on Monday to pay homage to Zahedi and his colleagues killed in the strike, which Tehran and Damascus have blamed on Israel.

In a previous speech, Nasrallah said his group “owed a lot” to the senior Iranian official.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech during a gathering to mark annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day commemorations in Beirut’s southern suburb on April 5, 2024. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Zahedi “lived with us for long years, away from the spotlight, and provided important services to the resistance in Lebanon and the whole region,” Nasrallah said Friday during a televised address.

Zahedi, 63, had held a succession of commands in a Guards career spanning more than 40 years and was the most important Iranian military official killed since a United States missile strike at Baghdad airport in 2020 killed General Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force. He was thought to be the top Iranian military representative in Syria and Lebanon.

Tehran has promised to respond to the strike, which killed 16 people including two civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor of Syria’s years-long civil war that has been previously accused of inflating tolls and false reporting.

The Islamic Republic’s military chief promised on Saturday to inflict “maximum damage” on the Jewish state in retaliation for the alleged Israeli strike. A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said Sunday that Israeli embassies were no longer safe, while Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel had “completed preparations for a response against any scenario that would develop against Iran.”

File: Iranians attend the funeral procession for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5, 2024. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Possible scenarios for which the Israel Defense Forces is understood to be preparing include missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen — all of which have been carried out amid the ongoing Gaza war — and ballistic missile attacks directly from Iran, a situation that Israel has not yet faced. Israeli officials believe the country’s air defense systems will be able to handle the threat.

On Thursday, the IDF canceled all leave for active combat soldiers, though the  Home Front Command has issued no special instructions to the public.

A day earlier, the IDF said it was bolstering air defenses and calling up reservists, following an assessment.

Iran has reportedly also put its military forces on “full high alert” ahead of any expected strike.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian inaugurated the country’s new consulate in Damascus on Monday, a week after the deadly strike blamed on Israel destroyed the former premises.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) walks alongside his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad (R), and Iran’s Ambassador to Syria Hossein Akbari (C) during a visit to the site of a consular annex to the Iranian embassy destroyed in an airstrike blamed on Israel, before inaugurating a new consular building nearby in Damascus on April 8, 2024. (Louai Beshara / AFP)

Amir-Abdollahian inaugurated the new consular section in a Damascus building in the presence of his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, whom he also met earlier Monday, state news agency SANA said.

An AFP correspondent at the inauguration said the new consulate was not far from the premises destroyed by the strike in the upscale Mazzeh area, which also houses other foreign embassies and UN offices.

Amir-Abdollahian was also set to meet President Bashar Assad, and Syria’s pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said his talks in Damascus would be “mainly focused” on repercussions of last week’s strike.

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