Iran backs Assad in battle for Aleppo with proxies, ground troops

The Washington Post reports: In a striking sign of Iran’s growing regional influence, a major assault on Syria’s most populous city is being coordinated by an Iranian military commander using Shiite forces from three countries to back President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered troops, militia officials said.

Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has ordered thousands of Iraqi Shiite militia allies into Syria for the operation to recapture Aleppo, according to officials from three of the militias. The militiamen are to join Iranian troops and forces from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, the officials said.

Soleimani has been a frequent sight on the battlefields in neighboring Iraq, where he has been advising Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants. But the war there has stagnated, and the shift of the commander along with Iraqi militiamen and Quds Force members to Syria appears to signal a change in Iranian priorities. [Continue reading…]

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