1. Thanks for this excellent roundup and analysis, Scott!
    Video 3 (A Communications Room With an Iranian Operator) was made apparently made in the Military Facility of Video 6: same plaster on the walls of the room as in the building.

    • Your coverage is really odd. It is like you are going out of your way to defend the IRGC or something. This guy was a IRGC murderer who got caught in an ambush. Who cares. Your coverage minimizing Iran’s military role is bizzare. The quality of reporting has truly gone down in the 6 months to year. Not sure why.

      • Behrooz,

        On the contrary, we are not interested in “defending the IRGC” or “minimizing Iran’s role”. What we are interested in is establishing what exactly we can know about Iran’s role from the data available to us.

        As a reporter, one cannot (or should not) ask “What Do I Want To Be True Today?”, and then look out for information that supports that.

        For example, I could take the videos as Al Jazeera did, and decide that because I want it to be true that Iran/IRGC are calling the shots in Syria, add that interpretation as a voice over and put a headline: IRAN IS CONTROLLING ASSAD’S TROOPS. Hurrah!

        Or instead, I could try to see what is actually happening; or to be more precise, I can see what the information that we do have can and cannot tell us about what is happening, where the gaps are.

        The former approach is instant gratification. It’s emotionally satisfying, assuming one does not mind being intellectually dishonest. The former approach will get you an exciting-sounding headline, plus the bonus of attention and comments. The former approach takes about 15 minutes, and not that much effort. And I don’t think it constitutes “reporting”.

        The latter approach, and the one we will continue to follow is harder, does not come with simple conclusions or easy-to-write headlines. Neither will it get anyone a nice, easy slot on Fox News or CNN where I can parrot off a cute soundbite to make listeners happy. But the satisfaction, at least for me, of taking the harder route is that at the end of the day, I know I have increased my knowledge of what is happening in Syria vis-a-vis Iran.

        Even if we don’t have all the answers right away. Even if we have to say, we don’t know yet, or we will never know for sure. Even if we have to keep digging when Al Jazeera already moved on to the next exciting headline. Even if our answers don’t fit a comfortable, easy pattern of what some readers want to be true.

        That’s what research is.


        • Ok, I partially agree. But it would really be a service to research quantify the resources the Iranian nezam spends subsidizing Syria on a monthly basis. I would guess billions without including Hezbollah? Any way to find out? Working back, how many IRGC boots on the ground does it take administer the transfer of money, oil, commodities, material, “military knowledge” to administer subsidize a bankrupt country and its war machine it, or are all IRGC based in Lebanon to evade detection by sending Hezbollahis? Is there is difference between Hezbollah and Iran here since they are Iranian agents? I would think some research on this would put our friendly IRGC film buff’s activity in context.

          • Hezbollah are a shiite party with a military branch and it receives money and weapons from Iran. This does not make them agents of Iran because their agenda is lebanese. Hezbollah are by far the most popular movement in Lebanon and they have supporters and allies among the Druze, the Sunni and the Christians.

      • In how far is the guy an “IRGC murderer”? Whom has he murdered and where is your evidence?
        Sorry, but from what is visible in these video clips there is not the slightest reason to consider the role of the few Iranians in the clips as something special. As I said earlier, they have no special weapons, no body armour or helmets at all. They are few in numbers. The entire “military facility” has only a single older tank, no artillery. It is obviously very poorly protected: No outer wall, no control outposts. Despite the flat terrain which normally makes it difficult for attackers to approach, the rebels were not detected by the defenders which indicates the latter had no or miserable surveillance devices/capability. During the attack, no air force is called in, no meaningful attempts are done to escape (e.g. with an armoured vehicle). You dont even hear them radio-calling for help. Nothing.

        • Just a couple nice kind persian boys hanging out, yeah in a battle zone, training some nice kind people not to kill, yeah right. A murderer is a murderer even if he has a filmmaking hobby. So any guess as to how many IRGC are in Syria, not counting to 50 they caught on holiday?

          • So, soldiers and military trainers are automatically “murderers”, yes? If war comes to a country, the government does not send out the soldiers for defense but the “murderers”?
            You failed to answer the question, whom the Iranian has “murdered”. They kidnapped 50 pilgrims. The fact that some of them have served in the IRGC 10-20 years ago neither makes them “iranian soldiers”, nor “murderers”. Did they find a single weapon with them? heh?

  2. Some notes:

    1) I seriously doubt that Heydari was filming a training exercise in Video 5. In Video 4 the Iranian commander is told that there is not enough ammunition. Using it for a training would be implausible waste. It is more likely that the Iranian troops and the cameraman went out for a nice short combat and got caught in an ambush.

    2) None of the Iranian fighters have military insignia. Insofar they are mercenaries and should be treated as such.

    3) The Military Facility of Video 6 is apparently a Communication Centre for both Iranians and Syrians. One of the placards in the corridor is in Farsi and warns of talking to unknown people and entering unknown areas (among others).

    4) None of the cars has a license plate.

  3. Other questions arise:
    1. What is so special about the Iranians captured on film? First of all, they are only 4 people, a far cry from massive Iranian troop assistance to Assad. Second, they have no special weapons. In the six clips the heaviest weapon is a single older type Russian tank (not even a T-72). The Iranian “special forces” do not even wear average body armour. No helmets.
    2. The “military base” is very primitive. No fortified outer perimeter, no control and surveillance tower, no artillery…
    3. The “overrunning” clip of the rebels does not indicate much: You see rebels firing rockets and heavy MGs at the facility without any return fire. Normally, you see the rebels celebrate their victory over dead corpses of syrian soldiers and with proud display of booty, be it ammunition or tanks.
    4. Given that the Iranians are supposed to constitute a “special asset” for syrian forces, they are hardly protected: During the attack, no airforce is called in.

  4. Video 4, at 2:30 “feshang nadashtim” (we had no bullets). Sounds hardly like well-armed Iranian “special forces”, what?

    Video 5: This is no exercise, the soldiers are ambushed. Interesing observations: None has a helmet or body armour. Apparently they do not fire back, as the camera man also seems to notice when he asks why “bacheha” (the kids) are not returning fire. It is unclear whether anyone is shot as noone cries in pain and noone is seen being hit or falling. Both Heidari and the cameraman don´t express real panic: Neither vocal nor through hectic movements. None of the rockets fired in the rebel clip seems to land any close to the Iranians.

  5. From watching Dawoud brigade’s YouTube channel, it looks like this is well organized, well equipped, and well funded military body. They even have tank carriers (trucks), which means that they are quite mobile, and can operate within long distances. The warriors are fit and it’s obvious that they have some sort of a military training. They even use a relatively new IDF tactic of storming a target which the IDF calls “Swarms” http://www.fresh.co.il/vBulletin/showthread.php?t=417414&highlight=%F0%E7%E9%EC%E9%ED

    Someone or someones are funding this liwa generously with money and weapons.

  6. This new video footage shows Iranian military forces operating inside Syria and working with Syrian government forces. The Iranian commander in chief tells openly about the war in Syria and the training-sessions of Syrian nationals held in Iran. The footage comes from an Iranian cameraman, who died last week in clashes between Syrian government forces and rebels from the Dawood Brigade. The rebels turned it over to journalist Roozbeh Kaboly of the Dutch National Television-programme Nieuwsuur (Newshour). It was broadcasted in the Netherlands on September 13th.


    • Gulliver,

      Thank you — after viewing this, I had an extensive Twitter exchange with Roozbeh Kaboly. That exchange was fed into our updates of the original entry, particularly in our consideration of Heydari.


    • OK, thanks to the new footage we see the guy is no “filmmaker” but a paramilitary guy. It seems there were 4-8 Iranians in this particular group, of which at least two died. Still, my points remain: These guys – apart from being mercenaries on foreign soil – constituted nothing special with regards to the alleged “boosting” of Assads military capabilities.

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