Friday, 15 February 2013

Iran Live Coverage: Syria --- The Islamic Republic's "35th Province"

0605 GMT: Senior cleric Mehdi Taeb, the head of an organisation fighting “soft war”, offered the catchy headline in a speech yesterday to university student members of the Basij militia: “Syria is the 35th province [of Iran] and a strategic province for us. If the enemy attacks us and wants to appropriate either Syria or Khuzestan [in western Iran], the priority is that we keep Syria....If we keep Syria, we can get Khuzestan back too, but if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran."

Taeb also pointed to the Islamic Republic's support of Syrian militias through Iranian advisors inside the the country. He explained, continued:Syria had an army, but did not have the ability to manage a war inside Syria’s cities. It is for this reason the Iranian government suggested that, to manage an urban war you must form a Basij …The Syrian Basij was formed with 60,000  [members] of the party of God, who took over the war in the streets from the army."

More important than Taeb's rhetoric was the death inside Syria of one of those Iranian advisors, Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Shateri, also known as Hossam Khoshnevis, the head of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon. The commander was killed near Zabadani near the Lebanese border, as he returned to Beirut from Syria.

Shateri had been head of Iranian reconstruction efforts in Lebanon, for example, after the 2006 war with Israel. Before that, he had led Tehran's projects in Afghanistan. No details were given, however, of why he was in Syria.

Also intriguing are the exact circumstances of Shateri's death. Iranian officials initially said that he had died on Tuesday, but Tehran's declarations that he was killed by "Israeli agents" and the location of his demise led to speculation that he had been killed on 28 January when Israel's jets attacked a convoy carrying military equipment from Syria to Lebanon.

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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