Middle East

Iran envoy says Tehran had no direct role in Hamas’ Israel rampage, or proxy attacks on US forces

By Jennifer Deaton and Kathleen Magramo, CNN

CNN  — 

Iran has reiterated that despite its financial backing and support for Hamas and other proxy groups in the region, it does not direct any of their actions, the Islamic Republic’s United Nations ambassador told CNN in an interview.

Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s envoy to the UN, was asked if Iranian support was the “connective thread” in attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon on Israel, by Houthis in Yemen — including the shooting down of a US Reaper drone on Wednesday — and by Shiite militias in Syria against Israel and US forces.

Iravani said there was cooperation and collaboration, but that Iran was not directing any of those operations. He likened Iran’s role to that of the US in providing assistance to Israel.

“We have said very clearly that Iran is not involving in any attack against the United States forces in the region,” he said, adding that any attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq were undertaken by others at “their own decision and by their own direction.”

Iravani’s comments came a day after the Pentagon announced two US fighter jets conducted an airstrike on a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin added that the “precision self-defense strike” was a response to a “series of attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates.”

US and coalition forces have been targeted at least 46 times in Syria and Iraq since October 17 by one-way attack drones or rocket attacks.

In light of mounting fears of a wider regional war, Iravani said he has not had any “direct conversation” about containing the conflict in Israel with his US counterpart in the UN.

Tehran has long been accused of arming Hamas and other Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as regional attacks by its proxies have escalated and become increasingly frequent.

Iravani said Iran has “insisted that we are not going to expand this war front,” and has worked to calm allies in the region, but said others needed to do their part. He indicated the conflict could still expand if the fighting in Gaza continued.

The October 7 attack by Hamas saw militants rampage through parts of southern Israel on a murder and kidnapping spree that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage, including women, elderly, and children.

CNN pressed Iravani as to whether Iran supported Hamas’ murder of women and children and its hostage-taking on October 7.

The ambassador responded that the question should go to Hamas, reiterating that Iran was not directly involved in the attack, and was neither consulted nor did they have any prior details about the operation.

Iravani said, “It is a war. It is a war which has been started 75 years ago.”

However, he then added, “If it were us, no. We will not do it.”

Days after the attack the US collected intelligence that suggested senior Iranian government officials were caught by surprise by Hamas’ actions, according to multiple sources familiar with the intelligence.

The sources stressed that the US intelligence community is not ready to reach a conclusion about whether Tehran was directly involved in the run-up to the attack, while they continue to look for evidence.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’a movement based in Lebanon with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East, has also said that Hamas’ attack was kept secret from them.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah addressed speculation about whether Iran-backed factions were part of the attacks, saying that the planning and execution of the attacks were “100 percent Palestinian,” in his much-anticipated speech last Friday.

Nasrallah said he understood Hamas’ need for the element of surprise and said the October 7 attack caused a “political earthquake” in Israel and that it will have “lasting effects” on the conflict. He also viewed the attacks as a revelation of Israel’s military weaknesses.

CNN previously reported that Iran-backed groups were planning to increase attacks on US forces in the Middle East as Iran seeks to take advantage of a backlash in the region over US support for Israel in the wake of Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7.

Since October 7, and the increasingly frequent attacks on US troops in the region, the US has sent significant firepower to the Middle East as a deterrence to widening the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and in support of forces in the region.

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