First Iranian National Troops Hit the Ground in Syria
Tehran has finally caved in to pressure from Moscow and deployed forces from its standing army to Syria.
The deployment has been proven by two recent developments: Russia’s first shipment of S-300 missiles to Iran, and the Iranian media’s announcement of the names of officers and enlisted men from the standing army who were killed in battle on various fronts in Syria.
Confirmation of the long-delayed shipment came in a statement by the spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Moscow sent the first consignment of missiles just as Tehran sent standing army units to Syria for the first time. This was later denied, creating some confusion. At the same time Tehran appears anxious to start mending the rift with Moscow.
DEBKA Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources report that this shows that Moscow and Tehran have started to mend their rift over the strategy for the war in Syria.
The Russians claimed that the Iranians violated the agreements they reached in 2015 when Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Al Qods brigades and of Iranian forces in Syria, visited Moscow.
According to those understandings, the two countries divided up the war effort. The Russian air force took responsibility for the air war, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) took responsibility for the ground war that would benefit from Russian air support.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior Russian military commanders later claimed that while they sent additional planes and helicopters to Syria, the IRGC did not send the forces that it promised, and that there were not enough Iranian troops on the ground. In other words, the results achieved by Russian air force were reversible. The Syrian rebels would return to the bombed areas immediately after the airstrikes because there were no Iranian troops to take control.
Iran asserted for the last three months that it could not send any more IRGC forces to Syria because it would leave the Iraqi front and Iran’s border with Iraq vulnerable to attacks by ISIS. However, it finally caved in to the Russian pressure, sending standing army troops to fight outside the country’s borders for the first time in the history of the Islamic republic.
Unlike the IRGC, Iran’s standing army does not usually take part in overseas operations, so the latest deployment is considered an opportunity to gain experience fighting the rebels. However, the deployment is proving to be a costly one.
On April 10, the Iranian media reported the death of a sergeant from the 65th “Nohead” Special Airborne Brigade, which includes an elite unit that specializes in hostage rescue and counterterror operations.
The following day, it was reported that an officer from the 582nd Special Forces Brigade as well as the head of intelligence for the 45th Special Operations Brigade were both killed in action, along with more than five other soldiers.
Gen. Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian army, confirmed on April 12 that members of the 65th brigade and those from various other units have been collecting intelligence and serving as advisors in Syria.