The Israeli intelligence community estimates that over 55 Iranians have died fighting for the regime of dictator Syrian Bashar al-Assad, a toll that has undermined domestic Iranian support for continued intervention in Syria, Reuters reported Friday.
Speaking to Reuters, a senior Israeli military officer cited Israeli intelligence findings that “55-plus” Iranian personnel had been killed in clashes with Syrian rebels, in addition to a Hezbollah death toll he put at between 1,000 and 2,000.
Tehran denies having any military forces in Syria, but says it has dispatched advisers to help Assad’s army fight “terrorist groups”. Hezbollah has not published a figure for its losses.
Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said in a report that 53 Iranians, including elite troops and senior officers, had been killed in Syria as of Nov. 15.
In a separate report, Reuters wrote that a Saudi-sponsored resolution condemning foreign interventions in Syria, which targeted both Iran and Russia, was adopted by the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.
Last month, Hossein Hamedani, the top Iranian commander in Syria, was reportedly killed in fighting near Aleppo. The mounting losses forced Iran to acknowledge its expanding presence in Syria shortly afterwards.
According to a number of experts, Iran’s support has been essential to keeping Assad in power. Phillip Smyth, an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explained earlier this year that Iran wants to secure the presence of a friendly regime in Syria in order to “militarily encircle” Israel. In May, an Iranian analyst with ties to the defense ministry said that Iran sought to open a front with Israel on the Golan. After reaching a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 powers, Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah that the deal provided Iran and Hezbollah a “historic opportunity” to confront Israel.
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