Iran’s state-media claims it was behind the rescue of a Russian pilot whose jet was downed by Turkish fighter jets, utilizing Hezbollah terrorists and Syrian forces to complete their mission.
The Russian plane had violated Turkish airspace, causing Ankara to dispatch two F-16 Fighting Falcons to shoot down the Russian SU-24. The pilot ejected safely, but landed in Syria, where he remained under threat from rebel forces. Russia is providing military backing and aid for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, causing Moscow to become an enemy of opposition forces.
Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency said that its Iranian Revolutionary Guards under the direction of General Qassem Soleimani, who is infamously known for ordering terrorist operations that have killed Americans, retrieved the pilot in a successful rescue mission. Iran is also backing the Assad regime in Syria, and has fought on the ground with Assad’s forces against rebel units.
“While the Russians were planning for another operation to free the pilot immediately, General Soleimani contacted them and proposed them that a special force unit be formed of Hezbollah’s special forces and Syrian commandos who have been trained by Iran and are fully familiar with the geographical situation of the region to be tasked with the ground operations and Russia provide them with air cover and satellite intelligence.”
The Iranian media outlet claimed eight Hezbollah jihadis and eighteen Syrian operatives helped recover the pilot, using Russian satellite imagery to help navigate the terrain. They “saved the pilot after infiltrating 6 km behind enemy lines, killing the terrorists (rebels) operating in there and destroying their hi-tech equipment,” the report read.
“Soleimani promised them to return the Russian pilot safe and sound; a promise that was kept in the end,” the Iranian report concluded.
Moscow confirmed Wednesday that its pilot had been freed from behind enemy lines. “The operation ended successfully. The second pilot has been brought to our base. He is alive and well,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Rumors surfaced last week that Soleimani had been injured in Syria while directing Iranian forces in support of the Assad regime. They have not been confirmed and Iran denies that its terror chief has been injured.
U.S. officials believe that thousands of Iranian fighters are on the ground in Syria assisting Assad’s forces under the command of Soleimani. They are also deploying units from Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, to keep Assad in power.