The killing of Seyed Razi Mousavi, a senior adviser of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF) in Syria, on December 25 outside Damascus led to harsh anti-Israel rhetoric from officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the (unconfirmed) presumption that Israel was behind the assassination. Similar to the antisemitic and anti-Zionist vitriol that followed the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Quds Force, in 2020 in Baghdad, Mousavi’s death also led to incitement and genocidal threats against the Jewish state.
Following Mousavi’s killing, Iranian Foreign Minister Hamid Amir Abdollahian warned Israel that it should wait for a “difficult countdown [to an attack].” The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) also threatened that “without doubt, the usurping and savage Zionist regime will pay for this crime.” IRGC Spokesperson General Ramezan Sharif made further threats that the “response to Mousavi’s assassination will be a combination of direct action as well as (from) others led by the Axis of Resistance.”
On the day of Mousavi’s funeral, which was led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, IRGC Commander General Hossein Salami stated, “the revenge for the blood of Mousavi will be nothing less than the destruction of the Zionist regime,” adding, “We hope that God will wipe this regime off the face of the earth.” Meanwhile, the crowd that gathered in Tehran for Mousavi’s funeral chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” while waving yellow flags with the message “I am your opponent” in both Persian and Hebrew, as a threat to Israel.
Iranian regime officials and Iran-based analysts have so far presented several reasons why Mousavi was targeted. According to IRGC Spokesperson Sharif, Israel killed Mousavi, to divert public attention away from “the unrepairable defeat which the Zionists suffered from the Al Aqsa Storm operation.” In an interview with the Iran-based Entekhab News, international relations specialist Hosseyn Beheshtipour stated that by killing Mousavi, Israel was trying to breathe life back into its forces at home. According to him, this was because “in the past few months, Israel’s security and military forces had received a number of powerful blows” [i.e. from Hamas]. Beheshtipour then added, “therefore [by killing Mousavi] Israel tried to illustrate to public opinion at home that despite receiving severe blows, it is still capable of striking at its enemies.”
Mousavi had 25 years of experience in Syria. As a member of the IRGC-QF, his main task was to arrange logistics for its military operations. His main focus was operations in Lebanon and Syria, where he helped “oversee the shipment of missiles and other arms” to the Iranian regime’s proxy Hezbollah. Mousavi, who was very close to the former Quds Force Chief Soleimani, was described as Soleimani’s “right hand man.” The two had worked together for many years.
Mousavi was very well connected in Syria. Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad and senior Syrian military and security officials knew him personally. Whenever Iranian officials faced difficulties or challenges in Syria, mentioning his pseudonym “Abu Mohammad” would open doors for them. As he oversaw logistics for the IRGC-QF, his main task was to provide transportation and other logistical means for Quds Force operations in Syria. This would include preparing the budget for such operations, and the transportation means, such as trucks. It is safe to assume that he was also in charge of arranging the shipment of weapons received in Syria from Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon. This would have also made him very well known to Hezbollah officials in Lebanon.
Prior to Hamas’ deadly October 7 attack against Israel, Hamas members underwent training in numerous places, including Iran, Lebanon, and Syria. As one of the most senior members of the IRGC-QF in Syria, it is very likely that Mousavi also provided logistical facilities for the training of the Hamas operatives in Syria. This, and the key role he played in facilitating the arrival and transfer of Iranian weapons in Syria, are likely to have made him a key target. This is because soon after Hamas’ October 7 attack, Hezbollah also started attacking Israel from the north. Nevertheless, so far, Israel and Hezbollah have not entered a full-blown war, as is the case with Hamas. The sophisticated weapons that Hezbollah receives from the Islamic Republic of Iran through Syria continue to pose a major threat to Israel’s security.
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and antisemitism, funding, equipping, and training Hamas and other armed proxies committed to killing Israelis and Jews around the world. From the Islamic Republic’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, to the sixth president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, regime officials never shied away from expressing their genocidal ambitions to wipe Israel “off the map.” This murderous intent became evident once again when the Iranian regime openly applauded Hamas’ deadly attack on October 7 and Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei stated the next day he would like to kiss “the hands and forehead” of those who carried out the attack. The anti-Israel vitriol that the deaths of Soleimani and Mousavi triggered in regime outlets and by regime officials should also serve as a grim reminder of the Islamic Republic’s true nature and ambitions.