Dubai: Iran is helping Syria to revamp its army, including training and assistance with recruitment, following a request from President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, a senior Iranian military official said.
“The Syrian army needed to expand its military training and attract more local recruits since the army is on the battlefield and can’t train forces,” Brigadier General Hussain Salami, deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said in an interview broadcast late on Monday cited by Tasnim news agency.
The Guards have provided strategic and operational advice, including training on maintaining and repairing equipment, he said.
“The army has been involved for four years in a draining war, it needs a structural change,” he said.
Iran has been Al Assad’s main foreign supporter since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, which has left more than 250,000 people dead and driven millions from their homes since fighting broke out in 2011.
Syrian and Iranian troops have renewed their ground offensive in recent weeks, especially around the key cities of Aleppo and Hama, backed by Russian air strikes since the end of September.
Reports of Iranian casualties, some of them high-ranking officials in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, have multiplied. Brigadier General Hassan Hamedani, the head of the Guards’ elite Quds Force in Syria, was said to have been killed earlier this month in clashes with Daesh militants.
Salami downplayed the losses as “not many,” while acknowledging that they “appear more visible than before.”
“The national security of Syria and Iran are tied together, and understanding this reality is the philosophy of our presence in Syria,” Salami said. Al Assad’s regime “has become the front-line for resistance” against the US and Israel, he said.