On Monday International media began reporting the murder of a senior Iranian commander belonging to the IRGC’s Quds forces. The killing was reported to have taken place somewhere around the Iraqi-Syrian border, only two days after the assassination of Iran’s top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The alleged assassination of an Iranian Quds force commander, would have serious implications, especially as some sources have claimed that it came as a result of a US coalition force-led bombing campaign. However, there’s no proof it ever happened, nor do the wildly contradicting reports suggest it to be true.
The report was said to have first originated from a pro-Syrian-opposition media group, called ‘Step News Agency’, which published a report on the alleged incident on the 29th of November. The report claims that the agency’s reporter, Abdul Rahman al-Ahmad, who is said to be based in the Eastern ‘Deir Ezzor’ province of Syria “obtained information” which indicated a vehicle belonging to Iran’s elite Quds forces unit was targeted and destroyed on Sunday. The car was, according to this report, targeted near the Salbi area, in the Suwayia desert, after having crossed into Syria from a designated area for militias, near the Al-Qaim crossing. The initial report only noted that two were said to have died in the attack, also claiming that last week unidentified aircrafts – suspected to have belonged to the US coalition – had launched 10 raids on pro-Iranian sites.
This report was then cited as the origin of the story in Israeli media, which ran with the claims despite not having anything but the word of one Syrian-opposition journalist to go on, later repeated by other pro-opposition media outlets. Israel Hayom news cited Step News Agency as a source, but repeated developed claims from Syrian-opposition media that instead of two Iranians having been killed, it was “a logistic officer in the IRGC’s elite Quds Force” as well as two other Iranians who had been killed.
On Monday, Al-Arabiya News, a Saudi news outlet cited unnamed Iraqi sources, claiming that a man named “Muslim Shahdan” was the Quds force commander killed. This was then published by the likes of Daily Mail, which also repeated the claim made by the Turkey based Anadolu Agency that there were now three IRGC members killed inside the car, which was allegedly targeted in Deir Ezzor Syria.
Also on Monday, Al-Jazeera Arabic was quoted widely in Arabic speaking media after claiming to have received confirmation on the murder of an Iranian Quds force commander having been killed, by unnamed Iraqi PMU sources. RT then also published these claims, noting that there were no names given to confirm.
Contradictions, unnamed sources, questionable motives and nothing but claims
The first thing that has to be noted here, is that there has been no photographic evidence, witness testimony, rough timing, video evidence or confirmation on exactly where in Deir Ezzor this attack took place. We don’t see continuity throughout the various contradictory claims made by different media outlets and cannot even determine how many people allegedly died in the reported attack.
The story originated with Syrian opposition media groups, who have a clear anti-Iran agenda and have continued to peddle false claims of Iranian forces being killed in virtually every single Israeli attack on Syria, figures which Israel never even clarifies. These groups claim to have sources in Syrian government controlled areas, even naming those individuals occasionally. If the Syrian government knows these journalists, how is it that they are still able to obtain sensitive information on military operations, casualties of individuals only known to a few to even be in the country, in top-secret locations? Also, how is it that these opposition journalists are the first people to report casualties, often before there is time for medical staff to declare deaths? However, their sources, that definitely exist, are primarily based in Idlib province, which is largely under the control of various Takfiri militant groups and is located to Syria’s North West – the opposite side of Syria to Deir Ezzor.
It should also be noted that these claims were picked up first by Israeli media, which also has an anti-Iran agenda. Israeli media have often used the claims of Syrian opposition media, in order to present victory to their people, following airstrikes on Syria which the IDF only occasionally officially acknowledges.
Then we can turn to the origin of the claim that Muslim Shahdan was the Iranian Quds force commander killed, which emerged in Saudi Arabian media. The News outlet Al-Arabiya that published the claim has been boycotted by groups such as Hamas in Gaza, after it released an unsubstantiated claim – from unnamed sources – that a high ranking member of Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam brigades, had deserted to Israel. Al-Arabiya, being a Saudi controlled News outlet carries with it an anti-Iran bias.
Then we can move on to the Al-Jazeera Arabic sources, which claim to have been with the Iraqi PMU. The PMU or Popular Mobilisation Units, are officially part of the Iraqi military and are made up of various different military groups. If Al-Jazeera had received information from the PMU, they failed to mention which group. Was it a group favourable to Iran or was it a group less favourable to Iran? Was it a group present in Abu Kamal, in Eastern Syria, close to where this alleged attack took place? The assumption which is often made, that the PMU is essentially in its entirety an Iranian proxy, is not correct, whilst groups like Kataeb Hezbollah are most certainly pro-Iran, others aren’t. Until now, no official statements have been issued by the PMU or Iraqi government on the matter.
There’s then the story which was looped in with this alleged attack, which claimed that US coalition forces attacked 10 Iranian sites in Abu Kamal, which according to the initial reports from Syrian opposition media says happened last week. Israel Hayom and the Daily Mail fail to specify when these attacks took place, making it seem like this all happened on the same night. Again there are no specifics given here, just the repeated claims from Syrian opposition media.
The claims also made about weapons having been transported in the car, which was allegedly attacked, seem very unlikely. Why would an Iranian Quds Force commander be travelling in a car packed full of weapons and why take weapons across the border in a car with a high ranking commander in it, why not just transport the weapons in trucks? This claim specifically, makes the story seem extremely doubtful, as how would such a detail be released, when no one has been able to officially identify the two/three/four Iranians said to have been killed?
Iran Denies Claims And Israeli-US Psychological Warfare
A Spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, told Iran’s Mehr News that these allegations were false, which has now even been reported by Israeli media, yet many Western media outlets have yet to publish this information.
Talking to Syrian Military Sources, I was also informed that they were not aware of any such attack happening, whilst Iranian sources denied the attack took place. The Lebanon based Arabic media outlet, Al-Mayadeen, also quoted Iranian sources denying the reports of what allegedly took place on Sunday.
It is reasonable to assume that following the illegal terroristic assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top scientist, that Israel and the United States may be working to pursue tactics of psychological warfare in the region. It is known that Iran has vowed revenge for the assassination that took place in Tehran, it is plausible to believe that in an effort to undermine the inevitable Iranian response, these types of claims are being spread.
We also know that Israel had just weeks ago produced claims that they assassinated Al-Qaeda’s second in command, inside of Iran. Israeli media said that the assassination took place back in August, yet never produced any evidence of such an incident occurring. Iran came out and denied the claims, but the story was reported in US media anyway, as if it were incontrovertible fact. This is an example of the type of ridiculous claims which are pushed by Israeli and Western Media in an attempt to link Iran with Al-Qaeda – something that is ridiculous to anyone in the Middle East or with knowledge of the region.
The unfortunate part of this, is that most media outlets have published the story uncritically, with the exception of a few, making an impact on the minds of many who will assume that what was published was the truth.
Right now, we simply do not have any independent, verified, official, or primary sources; we have no evidence; and in fact the claims that we do have would have indicated about four different versions of the alleged attack.