Thousands of Iranians, Iraqis Flock to Syria to ‘Protect Damascus’ and Save Assad Regime
Thousands of Iranian and Iraqi fighters have recently streamed into Damascus to prevent the fall of struggling dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime, reports from across the Middle East revealed on Tuesday, citing Syrian security sources.
According to the sources, “almost 7,000 Iranian and Iraqi fighters arrived in Syria and their primary goal is to defend the capital.” One source added that “the largest contingent among them was Iraqi.”
Commenting on the arrival of the Iraqi and Iranian fighters, Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards Quds Force said that “in the coming days, the world will be surprised by what we are preparing, in cooperation with Syrian military leaders.”
The fighting force raced to the Syrian capital after Sunni jihadis proclaimed Damascus as their next target, according to London-based Asharq Al-Awsat.
Lebanese Daily An-Nahar reported that the Emir of leading rebel group al-Nusra Front, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, last Wednesday said that the goal of his fighters in Syria was to “bring down the regime, its symbols and its allies.”
In light of this threat, the Syrian security source noted that,”the goal is to get to 10,000 fighters to back the Syrian Army and the gunmen loyal to it primarily in Damascus, and in the second phase, to regain control over the city of Jisr Al-Shughur, which would open the road to the coastal cities and the area of Hama in the center of the country.”
The Syrian regime lost control over strategically important Jisr Al-Shughur in late April after intense battles with Jaysh Al-Fateh, a fighting alliance which includes al-Nusra Front — also known as al-Qaeda in Syria — and other local extremist Sunni factions.
The Syrian source added that the Iranians and Iraqis extended the support after the Syrian government called on them to back up their earlier verbal endorsements of the regime with concrete actions, after a series of military setbacks it faced while confronting Sunni jihadi elements.
Iran is a key ally of Assad’s regime and has provided Damascus with financial and military support throughout the long Syrian civil war, both directly and through proxies such as Hezbollah.
According to certain analysts, the new Syrian strategy includes an acceptance of the country’s de facto partition, while focusing on the defense of strategically important areas and leaving others to the rebels. A source close to the regime said it considers Damascus, the Mediterranean coast, and the central cities of Hama and Homs to be vital.
It also regards the Damascus-Beirut and Damascus-Homs highways as “red lines,” said the source.