A senior Iranian commander said on Tuesday that Iran will continue sending “military advisers” to Syria for as long as the regime of President Bashar Assad requires Iranian assistance.
“The advisory help isn’t only in the field of planning but also on techniques and tactics. Because of this the forces have to be present on the battlefield. We will continue our advisory help as long as they need it,” Revolutionary Guard ground forces commander Mohammad Pakpour told Iran’s Fars news service, as transcribed by Reuters.
He added that there was “very close coordination between the Syrian army and the Revolutionary Guards advisers.”
As Reuters observes, over a thousand Iranians have been killed in the Syrian civil war, so they are obviously doing a lot more than merely providing “advice” to the Syrian military. Iran has also brought in thousands of Shiite militia from other countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Lebanon.
There was also a meeting in Tehran on Monday between Syrian Army commander Ali Abdullah Ayyoub and Iranian Major General Mohammad Bagheri, in which the two pledged continued military cooperation against “Takfiri terrorism” (that is, terrorism by false Muslims or apostates) and denounced airstrikes and missile attacks against Syria by the United States and “the Zionist entity” (i.e. Israel).
Despite Pakpour’s pledge to stay the course, other sources describe Iran as looking for a “new policy” in Syria, with Tehran feeling muscled out by Russia and the revived Syrian government on one side and the U.S. and its allies on the other. The Iranians seem especially concerned that Russia will emerge as the champion that saved Damascus for the Assad regime.
The government in Tehran may also feel some apprehension about public attitudes toward prolonged intervention in Syria, especially with an Iranian presidential election in progress. It is difficult to judge the political fallout from the Syrian war in Iran’s authoritarian theocracy, but one recent clue was the furor over a reformist politician supposedly insulting Iran’s troops by questioning the wisdom of pursuing peace by “sending money and arms and by carrying out military operations.”