Israeli airstrikes in Syria that killed several IRGC generals have unleashed a barrage of “cutlet” photos online, a popular dish now symbolizing Iran’s slain Guards.
The association started with the targeted killing of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, whose body was so mutilated in a US drone strike in 2020 that people described him as a “cutlet,” a popular dish like burgers made of ground beef and potatoes.
Iranian regime opponents observe his death anniversary as “Cutlet Day” on various social media platforms, a symbolic protest act that has seen several people arrested. The recent surge in such surgical strikes has ushered in a “Cutlet Season” as dissident activists took to social media with different photos of cutlets.
On Saturday, the IRGC confirmed that four of its forces lost their lives in the airstrikes on a building in the Mazzeh neighborhood in Damascus. A fifth IRGC officer later succumbed to his wounds and died. Among the dead was Hojatollah Omidvar, also known as Haj Sadegh and Yousef Omidzadeh, who served as the head of the RGC’s extraterritorial Quds force intelligence unit in Syria. According to Iranian state media, Omidvar’s deputy was also killed in the attack.
On December 25, another suspected Israeli airstrike targeted and killed another top Iranian IRGC general, Razi Mousavi, at his residence near Damascus. Additionally, several high-ranking military commanders of Iran-backed militia — such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Iraq – were killed. On Sunday, three more IRGC members were killed in a US-led strike on Houthi rebels of Yemen.
In addition to celebrating “Cutlet Season” and quipping about a more extensive menu by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a photo that is widely circulated is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei surrounded with cutlet patties instead of a group of his inner circle. Another widely shared post is a symbolic weekly schedule of the Supreme Leader, with most of his week spent on funeral prayers for the slain IRGC generals.
The hardline daily Farhikhtegan has published a list of senior IRGC “military advisors” killed since 2015 in Syria, claiming that eight out of the total of 20 have been killed since Iran-backed Hamas started the war against Israel on October 7. The list probably ignored mid-ranking people as it pertains to only seven strikes while Israel has reportedly had around 600 airstrikes since April 2017.
The increasing fatalities among IRGC men have also led to speculations that Israel may have been tipped off about the whereabouts of the targets by Russia. Centrist Aftab News website in Tehran ran an article Sunday — titled “The coordination between Israel and Russia in Syria is not very hidden” — citing several Iranian officials and activists who mentioned the alleged coordination.
Lawmaker Mohammad Esmail Kowsari, who is a former IRGC commander, said, “Spies in Damascus must be arrested.” Addressing President Ebrahim Raisi, journalist Alireza Mostafa said, “Please ask President Vladimir Putin why the Russian S-400 air defense system is never activated in Syria to protect Iran’s interests? Isn’t Russia a strategic ally of Iran?”
According to conservative commentator Sadegh Hosseini, “Since the increased and consolidated presence of Russians in Syria, we have witnessed a rise in Israel’s aerial attacks against Iranian forces. The recent assassinations in Syria underscore the need for a reassessment of Iran-Russia relations in Syria.”
The Islamic Republic’s intelligence failures extend beyond overseas operations, evident in the recent twin blasts during Soleimani’s death anniversary ceremonies in Kerman. Pointing the finger at Russia while Iranians are mocking IRGC casualties is further proof that Iranians do not take seriously the regime figures who keep threatening Israel with a firm response, but nothing happens.