A brigadier general and a colonel from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were killed while fighting jihadists and rebels in Syria over the past several weeks. Nine other IRGC members were also killed during that time.
Colonel Mostafa Ezzatollah Soleimani, who served as a “military adviser to the Syrian army,” was killed in battle against “the Takfiri terrorists” in Aleppo province, according to Fars News, Iran’s semi-official news organization. The Iranian news agency did not relay how the colonel was killed, or which groups his unit was fighting.
Soleimani previously served as the “commander of the Elite Battalion of Hazrat Bani Hashem (AS) Brigade 44 in the city of Shahr-e Kord in Western Iran.” His former brigade is said to be an elite IRGC special operations unit.
Brigadier General Reza Khavari, another senior IRGC commander, was killed during fighting in “central Syria,” Fars News reported. Like Soleimani, he was also “fulfilling his duty as a military adviser” to Syrian forces.
Prior to advising Syrian military units, Khavari was “the senior commander of IRGC’s Fatemiyoun Division.”
Fars News also reported that nine other IRGC members, including two officers, were killed in combat in Syria at the end of October. Five of them were identified as: Major Seyed Sajjad Hosseini from the Khordad 15 Artillery; Mostafa Sadrzadeh, Seyed Ali Hosseini Alemi, and Seyed Milad Mostafavi from the Fatemiyoun Division; and Amin Karimi from the Ansar Division. The names of the other four IRGC members were not disclosed.
Additionally, another senior IRGC commander, Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, was killed while battling the Islamic State outside of Aleppo. Hamedani’s death was mourned by Iran’s president, the minister of defense, the foreign minister, and other senior Iranian officials. [See LWJ report, Islamic State kills Iranian general in Syria.]
Iran has reportedly deployed significant forces, estimated at thousands of troops, in support of the Assad regime’s offensive to retake areas controlled by the al Qaeda-led Jaysh al Fateh coalition and other groups in Hama and Aleppo. Iranian officials have denied that their military units are deployed as combat formations in Syria, insisting their officers and troops are merely serving in an advisory capacity.
Five field grade IRGC officers have been killed while fighting in the Syrian and Iraqi wars over the past year. Dozens of other lower ranking officers and troops are also thought to have been killed in the two countries during that timeframe.
In January, Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allah-Dadi of the Qods Force and five other Iranian officers, as well as six Hezbollah fighters, were killed in what is thought to have been an Israeli airstrike in Quneitra, Syria.
In May, Jassem Nouri, a commander in the Iranian military, was killed while fighting against the Islamic State near Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar in Iraq. Nouri was reportedly advising the Iranian-backed Shiite militias that are attempting to retake Ramadi from the Islamic State.
Also, in December 2014, the IRGC announced that Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi was killed by an Islamic State sniper while serving in Samarra, close to the shrine of Imam Hassan Askari. Taqavi advised and fought alongside Saraya Khorasani, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that lauded the general after his death.
Iran has invested significantly in the Shiite-led Syrian and Iraqi governments, which are mired in multi-sided wars with Sunni jihadist groups, rebels, and other actors. Major General Qassem Soleimani, the head of IRGC’s Qods Force, has personally intervened in several key battles in Iraq, and has appeared on multiple battlefields in both Iraq and Syria. Most recently, the Qods Force leader was photographed while rallying Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters in Aleppo.