Video footage appearing to show members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) operating on the ground in Syria – training and coordinating with Syrian government troops – have renewed questions regarding the extent to which the Islamic republic is directly involved in fighting the Syrian conflict. Tehran has admitted to training Shiite militias in Syria but denied as recently as this week that it maintained a military presence in the country.:
The Iranian government has strongly rejected allegations that the country is involved in combat in Syria. And during a September 17 press conference, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said the video was fabricated.
“We don’t have any official military presence in Syria and if any footage or propaganda exists in this regard, they should be examined within another framework,” Afkham was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
Her answer prompted a follow-up from Ramin Mostaqim, correspondent for the “Los Angeles Times,” who asked Afkham whether “Iran may have an unofficial volunteer presence in Syria.” The spokeswoman offered no direct response.
Iran’s newly inaugurated president Hassan Rouhani has vowed to support the Bashar al-Assad regime. The footage, released by Syrian opposition forces, was reportedly shot by an embedded documentary filmmaker who was killed when rebels stormed the base.
The claims were taken as being at the very least in tension with the reported assassination earlier this year of a top IRGC general traveling between Syria and Lebanon. Reuters reported in 2012 that Iran was using Iraqi airspace to transport military personnel and large quantities of weapons to Syria.
[Photo: Lenziran Newsvideo / YouTube]