BEIRUT – A high-ranking general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards called for volunteers to fight in Syria while stressing that the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not yet decided to dispatch regular army troops to the war-torn country.
"The Iranian Supreme Leader does not want to send armies to Iraq and Syria at the moment but he confirms that military commanders [have been] sent so that their capabilities may be put to use in those two countries," Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major General Rahim Nowi-Aghdam said.
The general’s comments came during a speech in which he exhorted members of Iran’s Basij paramilitary organization to join the fight in Syria and Iraq, Al-Arabiya reported Wednesday.
“If you do not volunteer to fight in Iraq and Syria, I will go myself, and I will martyr myself in the defense of [the shrine] of Sayyida Zeynab [in Damascus] or the Shiite shrines in Iraq,” Iranian Rahyab News quoted him as saying.
Nowi-Aghdam linked the wars in Syria and Iraq directly to Iran’s fate, saying that “if we do not [stop] ISIS in [Iraq and Syria], we will have to fight it in Khuzestan and Tehran.”
“I am an ambassador of the resistance and I came here… to warn you of the [potential] future,” the IRGC official stressed in his dramatic speech.
Nowi-Aghdam’s comments come a week after reports began circulating that Tehran was dispatching a large number of troops to Syria to bolster the beleaguered regime’s army, which has faced a succession of defeats.
AFP on June 3 cited an unnamed Syrian security source as saying that “around 7,000 Iranian and Iraqi fighters have arrived in Syria over the past few weeks.”
The day before, pro-Assad Lebanese daily As-Safir said that Iran was mustering over 20,000 Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese fighters in the Idlib area to press a counterattack against rebel forces that overran the province.
Iran, for its part, denied on Wednesday that it had sent any troops to Syria, calling the reports “unfounded.”
The frenzied reports of Iran bolstering its armed presence in Syria were sparked by IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani’s recent trip to the country, after which he vowed “the world will be surprised by what we and the Syrian military leadership are preparing for the coming days.”