The Wall Street Journal reports: A top Iranian military commander who played a crucial role in Tehran’s efforts to defend the Syrian regime was killed in the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, Iran’s state media said Friday.
Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani died at the hands of “Daesh terrorists” on Thursday while conducting advisory duties, Iranian state media said, quoting a statement by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.
Although the statement used the Arab acronym for the extremist group Islamic State to describe those responsible for Gen. Hamedani’s death, the circumstances of his demise weren’t disclosed. The Iranian government, like the Syrian regime, tends to use “Daesh” and “terrorists” as catchall terms for all opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
Gen. Hamedani, a longtime commander in the elite military unit of the IRGC, is believed to have directly overseen the organization of pro-Assad forces into groups such as the Popular Committees, which were later folded into the so-called National Defense Force.
These local militias are now estimated to number anywhere between 150,000 and 190,000 people. They are mainly members of Mr. Assad’s Shiite Muslim-linked Alawite sect, while some belong to Syria’s own small Shiite community. The majority of those fighting Mr. Assad are Sunni.
Before he was dispatched to Syria to provide know-how and training to the Assad regime, Gen. Hamedani was a commander in the IRGC’s elite military unit that led crackdowns on Iranian protesters in 2009. [Continue reading…]