PHOTO: Fighting in Syria’s civil war — from a display at a Tehran book fair
The Tehran International Book Fair had a new exhibit this year. It had nothing to do with books, but everything to do with the Iran regime’s campaign for public support of escalating military intervention in Syria.
Rather than skimming the latest volume of the Supreme Leader’s speeches, a visitor could strike a pose as a fighter on a devastated Syrian street.
Until last autumn, the regime was reticent about its essential military support for President Assad. Iranian troops were already labelled as “advisors”, and deaths across Syria’s frontlines were already presented as martyrdom for the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine in southern Damascus.
However, with the coordination with Russia for a massive air and ground intervention in the autumn to save the Assad regime and the Syrian military, Iran gradually began to change the public line. The commander of the elite Quds Forces, General Qassem Soleimani, was presented as a celebrity. Funerals of Iranian commanders and soldiers were given more publicity. From the start of this year, the Supreme Leader was photographed with families of “martyrs” of the Syrian as well as Iraqi conflicts.
Despite a supposed “cessation of hostilities” on February 27, Iran has continued the campaign. Tehran confirmed that, for the first time, Army units were being deployed inside Syria. Special forces and mechanized infantry were among the new troops.
Last week, the Revolutionary Guards made its first admission of multiple casualties in Syria, acknowledging the deaths of 13 troops and wounding of 21 as Syria’s rebel bloc Jaish al-Fateh captured a key town south of Aleppo.