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Iran sends special forces to Syria as 'advisors': report

Iranian soldiers in camouflage march in the annual parade marking the anniversary of Iran's war with Iraq (1980-88) in Tehran, on September 22, 2014
Behrouz Mehri (AFP/File)
Unspecified number of commandos and snipers to join Revolutionary Guard Corps to support Assad regime

Iran has sent troops from its special 65th brigade unit to Syria on an "advisory mission" the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported Monday.

Deputy Chief Liaison of the Army's Ground Force General Ali Arasteh told Tasnim that advisers from the 65th Nohed Brigade are now stationed in Syria.

Iran has not officially acknowledged sending fighting troops to Syria, but says it has "advisers" on the ground assisting Syrian regime forces.

The deployment marks the first time that Iranian Army forces – in this case, commandos and snipers of the Rapid Response Battalions – will have officially operated outside Iranian borders since the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

While the presence of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria is well-documented, the Iranian Army has until now not formally contributed to military operations in Syria since Tehran first began sending significant resources to support the Assad regime four years ago.

Behrouz Mehri (AFP/File)

The newly announced Army deployment to Syria and Iraq represents a departure from the ground forces' constitutional mission to protect Iran’s territorial integrity.

While there have been no reported sightings of Army troops in Syria or Iraq, the deployment announcement came after the warring parties in Syria agreed to a cessation of hostilities last month.

Iran provides financial and military support to Assad through its Revolutionary Guards, notably sending “military advisers” and “volunteers” to fight alongside the Syrian army.

Guards chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari last week said “the situation in Syria is very good” following the recapture of Palmyra from Islamic State militants by the Syrian army.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari also lauded Syria’s victory and said that Tehran will continue to back the Assad regime and other governments battling extremism.

“Iran’s support continues for the fight against terrorism in Syria, Iraq and countries exposed to this threat,” Ansari told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam television.

“Syria will march forward strongly in the fight against terrorism and the terrorists definitely won’t have a place in the future of the region,” he added.

Syrian troops ousted the jihadists from the ancient city on last week, almost a year after they had seized it.

Late last year Iran withdrew part of its ground troops from Syria amid a significant reduction in Iranian presence in Syrian combat zones.

The number of Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops currently fighting in Syria is estimated at around 700, a drop of over 1,000 from previous estimates.

US officials believe the pullout is due to the high casualty rates suffered by the Iranians, including the reported injuries suffered by Qassem Suleimani, the Guard's elite Quds Force commander.

Iran-backed Hezbollah also acknowledges its forces are fighting on the ground, and the presence of Iranian, Iraqi and Afghan "volunteers" has been documented.

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Well it's the one thing virtually everyone seems to be in agreement and that is Iran is the source of virtually all the problems in the Middle East right now with its support of Shiite militias in Iraq, supporting the Syrian regime and the Houthi rebels in overthrowing Yemen's government and starting a proxy war with Saudi Arabia. Iran is clearly the engine driving almost all of the disruption occurring there. Until we stop treating Iran with kid gloves and as a serious threat, the mullahs will never alter their behavior.

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