The top commander and clerical representative of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) external operations wing, the Qods Force, recently delivered speeches in Tehran and Damascus commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, the most senior IRGC commander killed in the Syrian civil war.
IRGC-QF commander Major General Qassem Soleimani delivered a speech on Oct. 5 in Tehran. Senior IRGC commanders and Iranian government officials were in attendance.
“The problem of the enemies is the centrality of Syria in the resistance front and relations with the Islamic Republic,” Soleimani said. “We do not only defend Syria in this country, but we defend Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well, because DAESH [pejorative for the Islamic State] and takfiri groups were not formed for Syria, these were formed for Iran.”
Soleimani’s statement underscores the strategic importance of Syria to Tehran. He and other senior officials justify their involvement in Syria by claiming that the fight there keeps Iran safe from threats like the Islamic State and Sunni extremists.
Soleimani said he saw Hamedani a few hours prior to his death and suspected Hamedani sensed his demise. Hamedani, who was posthumously promoted to Major General, played an important role in the IRGC’s Syria operations until his death on Oct. 7, 2015, in the vicinity of Aleppo.
He was a top commander in the Iran-Iraq War and led the crackdown against Iranian protesters in Tehran during the 2009 post-election protests. Deploying to Syria in 2011 shortly after the protests broke out, Hamedani was in charge of organizing Syrian paramilitary forces based on Iran’s Basij model, and was also the senior field commander in charged of IRGC and non-Iranian Shiite militias in Syria.
“The culture of Imam Hussein has made us victorious,” Soleimani said. “[If a] DAESH government would have formed, God knows what disasters would have occurred in the world of Islam. The Islamic Republic of Iran has stood against this disaster with pride.”
“The Syrian system has been able to tolerate five years of pressure and surrounding with Iran’s help, so the world confesses that these groups are terrorists … If these groups were not stopped in Syria, today all of this region would be fighting DAESH.”
Soleimani then claimed the Islamic State is “worse than the Khawarij,” or the group that broke away from Imam Ali, who was the successor of Muhammad in the seventh century, point out to “what they do with prisoners.”
“The takfiris have been or are being defeated in all fronts today,” Soleimani said. “I believe that the Syrian people are undefeatable with the support of their government. Europe today pays a heavy security price, and the reason is their support of these terrorist groups. Martyr Hamedani had a valuable effect on these victories.”
“We must trust the wisdom of our leader [Ali Khamenei], and know his value. Today if the Islamic Revolution has amazed the enemies it is because the wisdom of the leader … We are proud that we are Shia, whose peak is higher than all religions.”
Meanwhile, in Damascus, the supreme leader’s clerical representative in the Qods Force, Ali Shirazi, delivered remarks for a commemoration ceremony held for Hamedani in the Mosque of Sayeda Roqayyah in Damascus, Syria.
The press reported that “shrine defenders” from Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran attended the ceremony. Iranian embassy staff in Syria including the ambassador were also in attendance. The governor of Iran’s Khorasan-e Razavi province, where the holy city of Mashhad is located, was also there.
Hojjat al Eslam Ali Shirazi said “if Muslim nations were not silent against their corrupt rulers, there would be no need today for all of these martyrs.”
“The reason is that humans are silent against oppressors and the deviation of global community,” Shirazi said. “They neither have problem in the heart nor protest on the tongue. Jihad against the enemies continues until they cease hostility with God’s religion and all Islamic communities move according to God’s commandments.”
[Update: In the earlier version of this report, the name of the IRGC command post in Syria was listed as the Imam Hossein Base. This is unconfirmed. There is the a distinct Imam Hossein Base of the IRGC Basij paramilitary headquartered in Iran, which has deployed forces to Syria.]