On Monday, the Iranian media reported that a number of the Islamic Republic’s military personnel were killed in a suspected Israeli air strike on a Syrian air base in Homs Governorate. According to the Iranian press, between four and seven Iranian nationals were killed, including a member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Force. IRGC-affiliated outlets, including Fars News Agency’s Farsi service, initially published photos and short biographies of Iranians killed in the raids but later deleted the reports. According to Raja News, an IRGC mouthpiece, Dehghan Yazdeli, who worked for the IRGC Aerospace's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Unit, was among the casualties. Other state-run outlets confirmed Raja News’ report. “In an act of Zionist-American invasion on Syrian military bases in T-4 airport in Homs city, Colonel Mehdi Deghan Yazdeli, a member of the air force personnel, was martyred,” the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting said.
Comment: There may be several reasons for IRGC outlets deleting reports about its casualties in Syria. The IRGC may not want to disclose information about its operations, particularly its drone activities in Syria. Admitting casualties in Syria, particularly in alleged Israeli attacks, is also a bitter pill to swallow for Iran’s elite force. Losing men in Israeli raids without the ability to directly retaliate against Israel diminishes the prestige of the Guards both at home and among its regional proxies. Iranian leaders frequently threaten to demolish Israeli cities if there is a war between the two countries, but the fact that Israel hit Iranian targets inside Syria at will demonstrates to the Iranian people that their leaders’ rhetoric is all bluster. Of course, Tehran maintains the option of retaliating against Israel through its proxies. Moreover, the IRGC’s costly involvement in the Syrian war has increasingly become unpopular among the Iranian people.