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General Admits Soleimani's Role In Syria's Civil War Long Before Jihadists Emerged

Iranian Defense Minister General Amir Hatami and his Syrian counterpart General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub in Tehran, January 13, 2020.

The Syrian Defense Minister has implicitly admitted that the Islamic Republic of Iran's military was closely involved in stopping the uprising against the Assad regime, long before the emergence of jihadists fronts such as ISIS and al-Nusra.

A video circulated on social media shows Syrian Minister of Defense, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, paying homage to the Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Qods Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on January 3, outside Baghdad international airport.

In the video, the former Chief of the General Staff of the Army and Armed Forces (July 2012- January 2018), and current Minister of Defense of Syria, Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, praising Soleimani for helping to design a plan for the forces loyal to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to retake Baba Amr, a suburb of the country's third-largest city, Homs, in March 2012.

"I initially met Qassem Soleimani in 2011, and the 1st battle we planned and carried out was in Homs, Baba Amr," Ayyoub disclosed on January 13, while visiting Tehran.

Qassem Soleimani in Syria with Iraqo Shiite militiamen in 2016.
Qassem Soleimani in Syria with Iraqo Shiite militiamen in 2016.

Military analysts immediately branded the victory as a watershed in Syria's civil war at the time. The insurgents, the Free Syrian Army retreated from Baba Amr, the district of the city of Homs under siege by government forces since February 2012 and allowed the Syrian Army to enter and reconquer it in house-to-house "mopping up" operations.

General Ayyoub's comments on Soleimani's vital role refers to the fact that, contrary to the Islamic Republic's claims, the IRGC's extraterritorial arm, Qods Force, had been engaged in the Syrian conflict long before the emergence of ISIS, and Al-Nusra in the war-torn country.

The forces loyal to Assad killed and wounded thousands of civilians to retake the strategic suburb of Homs.

The Islamic Republic has always claimed that its involvement in Syria was to stop extremist Sunni groups from taking over the country, but this account shows it assisted Assad against Syrian opposition.

Speaking to Radio Farda's Elahe Ravanshad, a Germany-based Middle East analyst, Habib Hosseinifard, says that General Ayyoub's remarks are not surprising, "What the Syrian Defense Minister says is not much different from the information we already had from inside Iran. We know that the IRGC General Hossein Hamadani was directly appointed by the IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani to be his lead person in Syrian affairs. Hamadani was initially sent to Syria in December 2011, years before the emergence of ISIS, al-Nusra, and other extremists.

Citing an interview by Soleimani’s hand-picked general, Hosseinifard quotes him as saying, "The Qods Force Chief Commander Major General Soleimani personally took me to Damascus and introduced me to Syrian officials."

Major General Hamadani died at 64, on October 7. 2015, in battles over Syria's larges-city, Aleppo.

Hamadani had earlier helped to suppress the 2009 election protests in Iran. He was the most senior IRGC commander killed in war-torn Syria, so far.

While in Tehran, General Ayyoub awarded Syria's highest medal of honor, "Hero of the Syrian Arab Republic," on behalf of Bashar al-Assad, to Qassem Soleimani, asking his host, the Iranian Defense Minister, General Amir Hatami, to present it to the family of the fallen commander.