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November 11, 2015 7:36 am

Iran’s Military Involvement in Syria Will Lead to Even More Death and Destruction

avatar by Behrooz Behbudi

Azaz, Syria, during the Syrian civil war. Photo: Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons.

Azaz, Syria, during the Syrian civil war. Photo: Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons.

It should have come as no surprise that Russia and Iran made their joint military move into Syria before the ink on the Iranian nuclear agreement was even dry.

The operation had clearly been long-planned, given the vested interests that Moscow and Tehran have in keeping the Assad regime in power, and the swiftness of their military deployment.

Although the Iranian leadership seldom publishes figures on their casualties in Syria, they can no longer tone down the extent of their intervention in the Syrian civil war, given the rising number of public funerals that the regime inadvertently holds to shore up support and justify its devastating regional policy.

Although the regime hypocritically claims that its military intervention in Syria is to deter ISIS forces from encroaching on its borders and to prevent regional conflict, Iran’s actions have launched a civil war in the Arab world.

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According to the regime’s own sources, the death count among its forces has been particularly high in 2015, with 80 Iranians killed, compared with a total of 140 killed since the conflict began in 2011. And those numbers are undoubtedly on the very low end of the true number killed.

In recent weeks, at least 28 senior Revolutionary Guards commanders — advertised as “military advisers” by Iran — have died on three separate fronts.

The death of General Hossein Hamedani in in October was a major setback for both Iran and Syria, as he was credited with helping create the pro-Assad regime militia National Defence Forces (NDF), which comprises of thousands of Syrian fighters, and is modeled after Hezbollah. Ayatollah Khamenei personally called on Hamedani’s family to convey his condolences.

In addition to Iraqi and Lebanese paid militias, Iran is also recruiting Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, promising them a regular monthly salary and work permits in exchange for what it claims to be a sacred duty to save Shia shrines in Damascus.

Western intelligence agencies reported that General Qassem Suleimani, the renowned commander of the Quds Force, arrived in Syria in September to mobilize a new offensive around Aleppo, which coincided with Russia’s new bombing campaign by air.

The cost of Khamenei-Revolutionary Guards’ devastating adventurist regional policy has not been confined to human losses.

In 2014, the Syrian Opposition Interim Minister of Finance and Economy claimed that the “Iranian government has given more than 15 billion dollars” to Syria. According to the United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, the Iranian government spends at least $6 billion annually on maintaining Assad’s government. Nadim Shehadi, the director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University, said that his research puts the actual number at $15 billion annually.

In July last year, Iran granted Syria a $3.6 billion credit line to buy oil products, according to officials and bankers at the time. Another $1 billion went for non-oil products.

And in July of this year, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad signed a law ratifying a further $1 billion credit line from Iran’s Central Bank.

In a recent report on the Iranian economy,the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the lifting of sanctions — which would give Iran access to frozen assets the Obama Administration estimates at roughly $56 billion — would create a “windfall” that Iran could use to resurrect its oil fields, revive domestic industries such as auto and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and reduce widespread unemployment.

Given the Iranian regime’s determination to keep Assad in power at any cost and maintain its military and financial support for its proxy armies in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain, it would not be wrong to assume that this “windfall” has already been squandered.

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