Iran is to reportedly send 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against opposition forces, according to the The Independent on Sunday.
In what was described as an Iranian “military decision,” the British newspaper said Iran was now “fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime,” citing unnamed pro-Iranian sources.
The sources “have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel,” The Independent’s Robert Fisk wrote.
The decision, allegedly made before this week’s presidential election, was “to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the largely Sunni rebellion,” Fisk reported.
Iran is a predominantly Shiite Muslim country, and a close ally of President Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Earlier this month Iran congratulated the Syrian army on their victory in the strategic central town of Qusayr after an 18-day battle.
Syrian army forces were supported by allied fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
“Iranian sources say they liaise constantly with Moscow [a Syrian ally], and that while Hezbollah's overall withdrawal from Syria is likely to be completed soon - with the maintenance of the militia's 'intelligence' teams inside Syria - Iran's support for Damascus will grow rather than wither,” The Independent reported.
“They point out that the Taliban recently sent a formal delegation for talks in Tehran and that America will need Iran's help in withdrawing from Afghanistan,” the report added.
In August last year, Syrian opposition fighters announced that the 48 kidnapped Iranians were current and former members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards and not pilgrims as Iran alleges, in footage aired exclusively by Al Arabiya TV.
The fighters “captured 48 of the Shabiha (militiamen) of Iran who were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus,” said a man dressed as an officer of the Free Syrian Army, in the video aired by Al Arabiya.
“During the investigation, we found that some of them were officers of the Revolutionary Guards,” he said, showing ID documents taken from one of the men, who appeared in the background with a large Syrian independence flag held by two armed men behind them.