A top Iranian general said that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops are feeding intelligence to Russia in order to guide its airstrikes on the Syrian city of Aleppo, Amir Toumaj, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reported in the Long War Journal on Tuesday.
Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was the IRGC’s chief commander for ten years and now serves as a senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, explained in a television interview earlier this month that “the Russians are responsible for aerial support of ground units, meaning those who are fighting on the ground are the Syrian army, Syrian popular forces, and some advisory forces and/or Hezbollah forces. Russia largely plays the role of supporting these [forces] by air.”
“Many victories like the capture of Aleppo would not have been possible without movement on the ground and only with air support,” he added. “The Russian air support was of course effective, but the ground forces gave them the intelligence that, for example, [told them] which terrorists were in what area.”
According to Safavi, IRGC- and Hezbollah-supervised troops collect battlefield intelligence and use it to select targets along with the Russians and Syrians.
Toumaj observed that Safavi overstated the involvement of the Syrian army and militias in the battle for Aleppo “in order to bury the extent to which Assad relies on foreign patrons as foot soldiers and planners in arguably the most important battle of the civil war yet.” He pointed out that the ground forces in Aleppo are mostly commanded by Iranian officers, as evidenced by the number of IRGC and IRGC-affiliated officers who have been killed in recent months.
Toumaj also noted that “the strategic command headquarters that oversees all operations includes Russians, Iranians, Syrians, and IRGC-backed proxy commanders.”
Aleppo is among the hardest-hit cities in the Syrian war, and its residents report a severe shortage of food, electricity, running water, and medical personnel. Activists say that Russia and Syria are using bunker busters to target those seeking shelter underground, as well as cluster bombs to maximize casualties in the besieged city.
The United States blamed Russia for bombing an Aleppo-bound convoy that was carrying aid for 78,000 people during a short-lived ceasefire earlier this month. Toumaj’s reporting suggests that Iran may have also been culpable for that airstrike, which was denounced by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as a “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack.”
During the five year-long Syrian civil war, which has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced millions, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been documented committing multiple war crimes, including the indiscriminate murder of civilians through the use of barrel bombs, massacres, intentional starvation, and chemical weapons attacks. The Assad regime and its backers — Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah — have been denounced for intentionally targeting schools and medical facilities.
[Photo: Fars News ]