PHOTO: 2nd Lieutenant Mohsen Ghiatsalu, one of the Iranian special forces killed in Syria over the weekend
Iran’s special forces have suffered their first casualties in the Syrian conflict, days after they were deployed in an escalation of Tehran’s intervention on behalf of the Assad regime.Iranian media confirmed the deaths of Colonel Zulfighar Nesab and 2nd Lieutenants Mohsen Ghiatsalu andMojtaba Yadollahi of the 65th Airborne Brigade. Two Revolutionary Guards members were also slain over the weekend, according to reports.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have put in more commanders and troops since last October, when Tehran worked with Russia on multiple offensives — also including Hezbollah and Iranian-led foreign militias — to prop up President Assad and push back rebels, especially in northwest Syria. However, the despatch of the 65th Brigade is the first deployment of an Iranian Army unit in the five-year conflict.The decision to send the brigade was a sign of the pressure on Iranian units, who are now reportedly responsible for the front south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Pro-regime activists have acknowledged that few Syrian military remain in the area.On April 1, rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra launched an offensive which regained some of the territory lost last autumn to the regime-Iranian-Hezbollah attacks, enabled by Russian airstrikes. The rebel-Nusra assault has captured the town of al-Eis on the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway and is threatening Khan Touman, another town on the strategic route.Iranian media have now confirmed the deaths of 228 commanders and troops since October 7.
For years, Iranian officials refused to acknowledge any presence in the battlefield, saying only that officers were acting as “advisors” to the Assad regime and that volunteers had died in defense of the Sayyeda Zeynab shrine in southern Damascus. However, since the start of the year, Tehran has implicitly recognized its commitment, with the Supreme Leader in photo opportunities receiving the families of “martyrs”.