13 May 2016 – by Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Portraying defiance despite recent defeats for the Iranian military in Syria, the head of armed forces has proclaimed that President Assad will not be removed. General Hassan Firouzabadi said on Thursday, “Despite US dreams and wishes, Bashar Assad will remain and warmongers will be disgraced by the victory of the Syrian nation.”
Despite American efforts alongside Iran’s ally Russia for a political resolution, the commander asserted that Washington is seeking to “take advantage of the chaos fueled by Takfiri militants in the region to pursue its own agenda”. Iran’s losses in Syria have escalated in the past month as rebels advanced south of Aleppo, where Iranian commanders lead pro-Assad forces and foreign militia. This week the Revolutionary Guards admitted multiple casualties for the first time, amid the rebel capture of the key town of Khan Tuman.Iranian media have officially reported the deaths of almost 300 commanders and troops since Tehran escalated its intervention in October for ground offensives enabled by Russian airstrikes. A former Revolutionary Guards general said this week that almost 1,200 Iranian soldiers have been killed in Syria since 2012.
Publicly Iran is still maintaining firm support for Assad, despite indications that Russia is willing to see the President leave as part of a long-term settlement. Last week, the Supreme Leader’s top aide, Ali Akbar Velayati, visited Assad in Damascus.However, there has been a subtle shift in Iran’s position, with Velayati saying — in place of an open-ended commitment — that Assad should remain until the end of his Presidential term in 2021. Iran may also have tested the water with an offer, revealed last month by Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, for Assad’s family to move to Tehran.
Rallying the Public Through “Martyrs”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader and other high-level officials continued the campaign to rally Iranians to support the intervention in Syria, despite the rising death toll.On Thursday, Ayatollah Khamenei met with families of Afghan men — organized and sometimes coerced by the Revolutionary Guards into service in the Fatemiyoun Brigade: www.mesop.de