The name Abu Mahdi Mohandes will mean little or nothing to the average American although in the world of terrorism, he counted as star of the biggest and most brutal attacks ever perpetrated against Americans in the Middle East.
As an operative of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp, Mohandes planned and orchestrated through Syrian and Lebanese proxies the 1983 attack on the US embassy in Beirut. in which 63 people lost their lives, including 17 US nationals.
This attack, the deadliest on a US diplomatic mission up until then, wiped out the entire CIA senior staff level in the region. That event marked the onset of anti-US Islamist attacks.
In 2003, Mohandes surfaced again, this time in the surprising guise of military commentator for Iranian television. His field of expertise was US military strategy in the Middle East.
Three years later, the arch-terrorist was back at his old game, this time in Iraq.
Al Qods Brigades commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani had big plans for his new deputy: To establish an Iraqi Shiite terrorist organization on the lines of the Lebanese Hizballah. Emerging between 2006 and 2008 under the name, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Mohandes’s latest venture set about killing US soldiers serving in Iraq.
Two Shiite fighters to one Sunni
Some years later, Mohandes turned up in the thick of the civil war in Syria.
Riding at the head of a convoy of hundreds of trucks, he crossed the border from Iraq to Syria and headed for Damascus. The convoy was carrying 2,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters of the AAH, who had been consigned by Gen. Soleimani to fight alongside the Syrian army.
These truckloads of reinforcements marked a turning-point in the Syrian war as it entered its fourth year, DEBKA Weekly reports.
In the first two and-a-half years of the war, Sunni fighters were preponderant both in the Syrian army and the rebel side. Today, the wheel has turned and Shiites outnumber Sunni fighters by an estimated two to one.
Bashar Assad’s army has dwindled from an estimated quarter of a million combat personnel in 2011 to no more than 55,000 today, due to mass desertions in the early days of the war and lack of conscription. Most of the serving personnel today are Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect, to which the ruling Assad family belongs.
The popular militia supporting the Assad regime, which is roughly the same size as the army, is made up entirely of Alawites.
Tehran has posted around 6,000 army men to Syria to assist the army in various professional military fields.
The Hizballah influx of strength to the Syrian army consists of at least 7,000 combatants, similar to the number of Iraqi Shiites sent in by Tehran.
These figures add up to a total of 130,000 Shiite fighters in the Syria war, compared with no more than 50-60,000 Sunnis, including members of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.