It was a bad news for Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, when Russia pulled out its forces from Syria while the forces opposing the rule of President Bashar Assad were making headway. Khamenei tried to recoup the missing savage strikes by Russian war planes by introducing more ground force into Syria. He ordered more Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and regular soldiers dispatched to Syria to follow the same evil cause. Iran even deployed units from its regular army to join the attacks against Syrian opposition groups, especially in the strategic province of Aleppo.
Iran’s regular army did not participate in any external mission since the end of Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Apart from Revolutionary Guards already on the scene now the army is being used to export Iran’s terrorism abroad. This was confirmed when a deputy coordinator of Iran’s regular army announced that the ‘Nohed’ 65th Commando Brigade had been dispatched to Syria, and other units were scheduled to follow suit in the near future.
Iran has housed its different forces in bases taken over from the Syrian army. The site known to many as “Glass Base” located just off Damascus International Airport is now the IRGC headquarters. Another Syrian army base handed over to Iran is the huge Sheibani base, located between Damascus and the city of Zabedani. IRGC has given the base the new name of ‘Fort Imam Hossein’. Hundreds of soldiers belonging to Iran’s ‘Fajr’ 19th Commando Division are stationed there. The base also houses units of Fatemioun and Lebanese Hezbollah which act as a reserve force and help for Syrian army to defend the Bashar Assad palace as Iran’s most serious job in Syria.
Another sign revealing Iran’s massive involvement in Syria is when its commanders and agents get killed there. Two independent IRGC brigades from Iran’s Fars Province have recently stationed in Syria. Colonel Mohsen Madani, a senior commander of this force, was killed on March 20th in the Khan Touman region south of Aleppo. His successor Brigadier General Mohsen Elahi was also killed a few days later in the same region, along with a number of other IRGC members. Another division of Iranian army deployed in Syria is Nabi Akram Division from Kermanshah Province, western Iran, which have doubled their troop numbers on the ground to 1,000 men. In a move to expand its presence in the area IRGC has established a command center in the town of Mayer near the city of Nabil. The forces in this center are under the command of an IRGC officer by the name of Seyed Rasoul.
Mullahs are using Mahan Air, a charter company associated to the IRGC to transfer pro Assad forces into the country. This airline reportedly airlifts recruits from the southern Iranian port of Abadan to Syria. Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force has ordered its proxy Shiite groups in Iraq such as Badr Organization, Saraya Khorasani, Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, Katayeb, al-Nijba, and the Lebanese Hezbollah to deploy more units to Syria. These foot-soldiers have been transferred from Iraq to Abadan and from there to Syria.
Syrian militias wounded in battle are sent to Iran to receive medical care. It is said that each week around 30 wounded Syrian mercenaries are directly flown to the Iranian city of Shiraz and transferred to the Rajaie Hospital. The IRGC has allocated various centers in this city for wounded Syrian militias and their families.
Velayati, Khamenei’s adviser on international affairs, admitted last December, “some wonder why we are in Syria, and why we help Iraq. My respond to them is should we not stop the enemy, tomorrow we will have to face them at our own borders”. Therefore, Iran’s heavy involvement in Syria continues, to maintain Bashar Assad in power which is the Ayatollahs’ most desired interest. Moscow pulling out has left Iran terrified. Syria a land Khamenei used to save his rein, now has become a snare for his regime.
Heshmat Alavi is a political activist and supporter for regime change in Iran. He writes on Iran and the Middle East.
He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi