Iran’s elite Rev Guards units routed by ISIS in the Al Safira pre-battle for Aleppo

The battle for Al-Safira, 20 km. south of Aleppo – and the key to its capture – will go down in Iran’s Revolutionary history as the most humiliating defeat its elite forces have sustained in all its 36 years. This week, Iran sent into battle outside its borders 2,000 of its best-trained, loyal and well-equipped combat troops, detached from six elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) units.The battle at Al-Safira, fought with Russian air cover alongside Hizballah and Syrian army forces, was supposed to be the turning point in the Syrian civil war. Its objective was to break through Islamic State and Nusra Front defense lines around Al-Safira, and knock over the positions the Islamists had erected for blocking the roads from Aleppo and central Syria to Damascus, among them Route 5, the main highway. After that, they planned to advance on Aleppo.
Their offensive had the opposite result.

Fighters from ISIS and the Nusra Front stopped the Iranian and Syrian troops in their tracks and forced them to abandon the sections they held along the main transportation routes leading to Aleppo. So not only did the Iranian-led army fail to clear the way to this key city, but they were driven back by ISIS fighters, who took control of the 20-kilometer route from Al-Safira to Aleppo. The day ended with the jihadis in position to tighten the siege on both cities.

On Thursday, Oct. 29, ISIS followed up on its victory by seizing control of the eastern neighborhoods of Al-Safira and advancing towards the center of the city.

The losses sustained by the IRGC, which spearheaded the ground attack, were heavy, mostly in the fighting in the rural area south of Aleppo.

How could this happen to Tehran’s supposedly formidable forces?

Iran’s death toll in the battle for Aleppo may never be known, but the numbers of officers and enlisted men who died was so high and the shock effect so extreme that IRGC Deputy Commander, Gen. Hossein Salami had to call a live news conference on Iran’s state-run television Wednesday, Oct. 28, to explain why his country came to be involved in the Syrian war.
He depicted Syria as “the front line in the battle against Western forces, particularly the US… which is seeking to implement a destructive plan in the Arab world.” He then argued: “Had Iran not intervened, the chaos would have spread into Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.”

But debkafile’s military sources point out that this explanation offered no answer to the main question troubling Iran’s leaders and the IRGC command: On what grounds can they continue to boast that Iran’s army is capable of destroying the US military within 10 days, and the IDF in one day, when Iran’s special forces, armored corps, urban warfare units and airborne brigades, backed by the Russian air force, not only failed to rout ISIS forces, but were humiliated into retreating from their strategic positions amid heavy losses? 
debkafile has obtained the list of the six elite Iranian brigades which sent units to the Al-Safira battle for Aleppo:  

The Saberin brigade, a Special Operations unit established in 1992 to fight Kurdish and Arab guerillas with separatist aspirations. Most of its fighters are from Tehran,

The Fatemyoun brigade, consisting entirely of Afghan Shiites. Their regular duty was to guard the Tomb of Zeynab, a Shiite shrine in the suburbs of Damascus. But a month ago, the IRGC expanded the brigade to division strength of 15,000 fighters for front-line combat in Syria and Iraq.    

Brigade 15 – or the Emam Hassan Mojtaba Brigade. Made up of fighters from central Iran, the brigade specializes in guerilla and urban warfare.

Independent brigade 83, or the Emam Jaafar Saydeq Brigade. This is an airborne unit whose fighters are rated as the toughest, most merciless and religiously motivated of all IRGC contingents. Not surprisingly, they come from Qom province, whose center, the city of Qom,  houses Iran’s clerical establishment and is the most important Shiite site after the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq.

Brigade 33, or the Al-Mahdi Brigade. This is another airborne unit with extensive experience in guerrilla warfare, which is based in the city of Jahrom.

The Ahwaz Armored Brigade, or the Hazrat-Hojjat Brigade. Its fighters come from the largely Arab-speaking and constantly restive province of Khuzestan in southeastern Iran. The brigade was upgraded recently with advanced weapons systems for fighting in Syria, Iraq, or any other neighboring country. 
The six Revolutionary Guards brigades were held up proudly as Iran’s finest fighting units, the invincible bulwark of the revolutionary Islamic regime in Tehran against the mightiest of its enemies. The vast gap between their performance and the ayatollahs’ fiery rhetoric is bound to redound on the authorities in Tehran which sent them into battle.      



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