The Elimination of Mohammad Reza Zahedi (Hassan Mahdawi): The Perception is More Important Than the Operational Effect 

On Monday, April 1, 2024, at around 17:00, an Iranian building in Damascus, located adjacent to the Iranian embassy compound in the Almaza neighborhood, was attacked by an airstrike. The four-story building was completely destroyed. 

The attack killed 7 Iranians from the IRGC. The most senior Iranian officer who was killed and who was the target of the attack was Mohammed Reza Zahedi, also known as Hassan Mahdawi. In his current position, Zahedi served as commander of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon.

Zahedi was born in 1961 in Isfahan, Iran. He joined the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in 1980 and held a number of very senior positions, including commander of the ground forces, commander of the air force, and commander of IRGC operations. 

Mohammed Reza Zahedi (AKA Hassan Mahdawi). 

Zahedi was the highest-ranking Iranian officer stationed in Syria. He commanded the Quds Force’s operational activity in the Syrian and Lebanese arenas, and in fact was the guide, integrator, and coordinator of the IRGC’s activity in those arenas and vis-à-vis proxy activity in those arenas, with an emphasis on Hezbollah and Shiite militias, including activity against Israel. 

What is the effect of the elimination? 

Zahedi’s elimination is crucial since he is the IRGC’s primary operational commander in the Syrian-Lebanese arena. The following period will reveal whether his assassination impaired Iranian operations in this area of activity. 

The elimination of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 resulted in a decrease in operational activities. It was just a matter of time before the Quds Force resumed its previous activities, and its replacement, Ismail Qa’ani, settled into his new role. 

Everybody has a replacement. Also, for experienced and professional expertise know-hows like Zahedi. However, beyond a certain operational setback, the elimination also has a symbolic-consciousness-psychological effect, which is sometimes no less important than the de facto operational damage. In a state of war, it is sometimes even more important, in that it will also have an operational effect. 

The enemy’s sensation of infiltration and persecution due to elimination leads him to halt and probe the intelligence-security breach. This suspension has an impact on operations. 

Is this considered an escalation? 

We are not sure if Zahedi’s death is considered an escalation . According to foreign reports, Israel is to blame for the elimination. Assuming this is true, any military element or array that operates directly against Israel in the context of current combat and directly threatens it as a result of its military activities is an obvious target. 

There is no doubt that the location of the attack is unique. But as soon as a A building next to the embassy becomes a military headquarters from which planning and command of operations against Israel are carried out, the target immediately becomes a legitimate target, such as a hospital in the Gaza Strip. 

In our view, an escalation in actions is preventive counterterrorism activity in an exceptional geographical arena against exceptional targets. For that matter, such as activity in a geographic arena, which is not a direct combat sector, in which military formations and/or functionaries are deployed who at this stage are not directly involved in the fighting, but in the event of escalation, they will constitute a very important component. 

In addition to Zahedi,6 other people who were with him or in the building were killed, including Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, Zahedi’s deputy and Hossein Aman Allahi, his bureau chief. In addition, four other IRGC operatives were killed. 

Zahedi’s deputy, Rahimi.

Will the Iranians respond? If so, where? by what method? time will tell. In any case, at least according to their public statements, the attack will not go unanswered. 

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Tal Beeri

Tal Beeri

One Response

  1. I believe that Iran will order the Houthies to intensify their drone attacks on Israel and maybe intensify their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. But that will probably be all.

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