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Iranian commanders are being killed - is Iran weakening?

Iranian commanders are being killed - is Iran weakening?

Israel appears to have intensified its campaign to assassinate top Iranian generals and commanders based abroad.

Suspected Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 18 members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - the elite branch of Iran's armed forces - in Syria since December last year.

In the latest case on April 1, seven members of the IRGC, including two generals, were killed in an airstrike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus.

The attack prompted Iran's response with drones and missiles against Israel.

Experts say the killings of Iranian commanders are aimed at defeating Iran's so-called "axis of resistance," or its network of regional proxies and militant groups against Israel and the West.

According to them, the strategy is likely to disrupt the activities of this network in the short term, but it is risky and may fail in the long term.

"Iran's regional network is held together through personal ties, not institutional ones," says Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

"The elimination of commanders who have decades of experience in the region and a wide network of personal contacts certainly weakens Iran," he adds.

"Dangerous Strategy"

Israel's alleged attacks against members of the IRGC have intensified since the outbreak of war in the Gaza Strip last October.

In response to Israel's deadly offensive, Iranian-backed militant groups attacked Israeli and US targets across the Middle East in a show of support for the Palestinians.

The conflict was sparked by an unprecedented attack by Hamas - a terrorist group declared by the United States and the European Union - against Israel.

At least three key figures in the IRGC's overseas wing, the Quds Force, have been killed in suspected Israeli strikes in recent months.

Razi Mousavi, a senior Quds Force commander, was killed in an airstrike near Damascus on December 25.

He was responsible for coordinating Iran's military activities in Syria and Lebanon.

Among those killed in the April 1 attack was General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the top commander of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon.

Zahed's deputy, General Mohammad Hadi Haj Rahimi, was also killed in the attack.

"There is always doubt as to whether these targeted assassinations work," said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based consultancy Le Beck International.

These attacks, according to him, "could have a short- and medium-term impact on Iran's capacity to coordinate with its proxies, to smuggle weapons into Syria and Iraq, and to threaten Israel."

The attack on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus came just hours after a drone strike hit a naval base in the southern Israeli port of Eilat on the Red Sea. The attack damaged a building and nearly hit an Israeli warship.

Responsibility for it was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq - an umbrella group that includes militias supported by Iran./ REL

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