Iran has raised the level of its support for the Assad regime following the Syrian opposition's capture of Idleb province extending up to Sahel al-Ghab in the Hama countryside, threatening Assad’s citadel in the coastal province of Lattakia.
The Iranian general Qassem Soleimani announced at the end of last August that he would bring about 9,000 Iranian ground forces to Syria in order to prevent the fall of the Jourin area of Sahel al-Ghab.
Following the announcement, sources in the Syrian opposition said that about 5,000 Iranians and other militias allied to Tehran had arrived to the Syrian capital Damascus, and that most of them had headed toward the Lattakia countryside and the south of Aleppo province.
Amir Ali Arasteh, deputy coordinator for the Iranian army’s ground forces, had announced last week that his country was sending infantry forces from Brigade 65 to Syria to do advisory work.
The numbers issued by local sources inside Syria indicate the presence of about 10,000 Iranian fighters and 4,000 from the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah on the battlefields in Syria.
Coinciding with the increase of the number of Iranian forces in Syria, the number of its officers who have been killed has also increased. Iranian media claims that Tehran has lost 23 soldiers in Syria thus far in April, including Revolutionary Guard Colonel Mashallah Shamsa, killed on April 2 by an Islamic State sniper in Aleppo province.
Among the special forces recently deployed, a number of soldiers were killed, including Seid Rohallah Husseini, Mehdi Jaafari and Bashir Nataqi (Fatima battalions), and Gholam Hussein, Amjad Ali, Seid Ser Taj Hussein, Murtadi Hadairi (Pakistani “Zainab” militias) in battles around Aleppo.
In addition, Majtabi Zhu al-Fiqaar Nasab, who worked in Battalion 45 of the special forces, and the officer Murtadi Zer Hernad in Battalion 258 were killed two days ago in a battle in southern Aleppo. Lieutenant Majtabi Eid al-Lahi and his colleague Muhsen Keitaslu, from Battalion 65, were also killed.
Alongside the deaths of the Iranians, media close to Hezbollah has announced the deaths of 12 of the party’s members in Syria, including the field commander Ismail Nayaf Hellawa, over the last two weeks.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.