Key point: Iran has a vast and deadly arsenal of missiles.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all in the six-year-long Syrian civil war, the conflict took another turn when Iran launched a missile attack against Islamic State militants in the province of Deir ez-Zour last Sunday. Iran depicted the attack, which was reportedly the first time Iran used missiles since the Iran-Iraq War, as a response to the ISIS attacks on the Iranian parliament and mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini earlier this month.
Although ISIS provided the immediate impetus for the attacks, there’s little doubt that Tehran wanted to send a secondary message to the United States and its allies, especially given that U.S. forces have begun attacking Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. Indeed, Ramazan Sharif, a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told state-run media after the attacks: “The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message. Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”