PHOTO: President Rouhani addresses families of martyrs on Saturday

President Rouhani has given a firm endorsement of Iran’s military intervention in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking on Martyrs’ Day in Tehran on Saturday, Rouhani said:

The issue is not whether they are based in Iraq, Syria or other countries. We will not tolerate attempts by terrorists to assault the holy shrines of the Household [of Prophet Muhammad] and will stand against them.

I have repeatedly said that the shrines constitute a red line for us.

Iran has cloaked its military support of Syria’s Assad regime in the pretext that it is defending the shrine of Sayyeda Zeinab, revered to Shia Muslims, in southern Damascus.

Tehran also portrays its role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq as a defense of holy cities.

The President told families of troops killed in Iran’s interventions:

Martyrs have taught us to protect neighboring Muslims and holy shrines whenever they are in danger.

Your children showed that they would defend Iran, the Muslim land, and the Household’s shrines no matter where they were.

Iran’s military assistance has been essential to the survival of the Assad regime in Syria’s five-year conflict. Its commanders have provided intelligence, logistical assistance, and support for reconstruction. In autumn 2012, the Revolutionary Guards began the creation of a 50,000-strong militia, the National Defense Forces, to supplement Syria’s overstretched army.

Since last October, Iran has stepped up its intervention as Russia began bombing rebels and the Islamic State. More commanders and troops were sent into Syria, and Iran also is leading Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani militia.

More than 200 Iranian fighters, including at least 11 commanders, since October 7. There has also been a heavy toll among Iranian-commanded militia, although the total casualties are unknown.