PHOTO: Revolutionary Guards mourn at the funeral of General Hossein Hamedani, Iran’s military commander in Syria, October 2015 (AFP)



Iran Photo Feature: Mourning the Troops Killed and Returning from Syria
Photo Feature: Tehran Rallies Public at Book Fair — “You Can Pose as A Fighter in Syria”

UPDATE 0600 GMT: A retired Revolutionary Guards general has said that Iran has lost more than 1,200 troops in the Syrian conflict since 2012.

In comments to the Iranian Students News Agency, Abdullah al-Tabrizi also indicated that the Islamic Republic should pull back from its escalation in Syria and focus on the battle in Iraq against the Islamic State: “I did not fight Daesh in Syrian territory. We will have to fight on the borders of Kurdistan.”

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are withdrawing elements of a division from Syria after it suffered heavy losses in a defeat by rebels south of Aleppo last week.

A spokesman for the 25th Karbala Division, based in Mazandaran in northern Iran, announced the withdrawal after the Guards’ official declaration of 13 dead and 21 wounded in last Friday’s sudden advance by rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra. He said 12 bodies are still “in the hands of the takfiris”.

The spokesman did not confirm a claim by a leading Iranian MP that “five or six” soldiers were also captured.

The defeat was the second blow suffered on the southern Aleppo Front in six weeks by Iran, as it sharply escalates its involvement on the ground in Syria’s conflict. At the start of April, Iranian forces and Iranian-led foreign militias suffered more than 100 casualties as they tried to retake another town on the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway, al-Eis, which had been claimed by rebels.

However, the Revolutionary Guards did not acknowledge their losses from that defeat. Last weekend’s admission of the Khan Tuman deaths was their first admission of multiple casualties in any Syrian battle.

Iranian media have reported the deaths of more than 250 commanders and troops since Tehran put in ground troops last October for offensives enabled by Russian airstrikes and accompanied by Hezbollah and Iraqi and Afghan militias. A large number of Iraqis and Afghans have also been killed, but the Islamic Republic has not given any numbers.

Claimed video from the mobile phone of an Afghan militiaman killed during the rebel capture of Khan Tuman:

The deputy commander of the Guards, General Hossein Salami, tried to play down the latest defeat on Tuesday, while proclaiming that it would soon be reversed:

The situation in Khan Tuman is a tactical change and development and doesn’t have any strategic effect on the entire battlefield….We consider the Syrian government as a part of the resistance front and we are in full control of the situation.

Supreme Leader’s Aide Hits Back at US Over Missile Launches

The Supreme Leader’s top aide Ali Akbar Velayati has pushed back US criticism of Iran’s latest ballistic missile tests.

Velayati said on Wednesday, “To defend itself, the Islamic Republic will aptly take the necessary measures, whether some like it or not. The Islamic Republic does not ask any country or international or non-international organization for permission to defend itself.”

US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said Iran’s tests were “provocative and destabilizing” and a potential breach of a UN Security Council resolution.

The resolution, passed at the time of the nuclear deal last July, bars Iran from any activity related to ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of” delivering nuclear weapons.

Tehran says it has no missiles which can carry nuclear warheads.

In the latest test, held two weeks ago but only revealed earlier this week, Iran said it launched a medium-range ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 km (1,240 km). It claimed the missile was within 8 meters of its target.

Poet and Journalist Mehregan Released From Prison

Keyvan Mehregan, a poet, journalist, and filmmaker, has been freed from Evin Prison.

A prosecutor and judge agreed on Wednesday on the release for Mehregan, who has been on a furlough.

Mehregan was arrested last September to serve out a one-year sentence, handed down in 2011 for “propaganda against the regime”.

Since the 2009 protests over the disputed Presidential election, Mehregan has been arrested and released on bail on several occasions.

Rouhani: “We Will Go to International Courts Over US Blocking of Iran Assets”

President Rouhani has repeated his warning to the US that Tehran will go international courts over a continued American freeze on Iranian assets.

The Rouhani Government had hoped that restrictions on all assets would be lifted by January’s implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal. However, last month the US Supreme Court ruled that families of victims of terrorism can sue for up to $2 billion in Iranian funds.

The decision has provoked furious criticism from all sections of Iranian politics, including the Supreme Leader.

Rouhani told reporters during a visit to southern Iran on Wednesday:

We consider all US acts in blocking Iran’s money as illegitimate and have entrusted a team to prepare a report…and then we will send it to the judiciary to pursue the issue.

We will go to the international courts and will prepare the necessary bills for raising the issue at the International Court of Justice in the Hague since the US has taken an incorrect measure….

The government will never allow the money which belongs to the Iranian nation to be used by the Americans so easily and with God’s assistance, we will raise the case at the International Court [of Justice].

On Tuesday, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani called on the Foreign Ministry to lodge a complaint with the court: “The US stealing of Iran’s assets is against all international regulations.”