PHOTO: Iranian special forces on the southern Aleppo front in northwest Syria, May 2016
Two days after Iranian forces suffered another defeat in northwest Syria, the Islamic Republic’s media are covering up the loss.
On Friday, the Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc overran Iranian forces and Iranian-led foreign militia on the front south of Syria’s largest city Aleppo. The rebels seized territory, including fuel and weapons depots, to the east and south of the town of Khan Touman near the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway.
The defeat was the third for the Iranian forces in two months. At the start of April, rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra captured the town of al-Eis on the highway. In early May, they seized Khan Tuman and inflicted heavy casualties on the Islamic Republic’s troops, during both the offensive and failed Iranian counter-attacks in the following days.
Iran’s leading English-language outlet, Press TV, makes no reference to the defeat. Fars News, the outlet of the Revolutionary Guards, goes farther: while referring to southern Aleppo, it converts the loss into a supposed victory, “Syrian Army Inflicts Heavy Losses on Terrorists in Aleppo’s Khan Touman”.
Converting the Iranian units into the “Syrian Army” — the Assad regime has few troops on the southern Aleppo frontline — the article then leaps into a series of false and distorted statements:
The Syrian army started fresh military operations against the terrorist groups in Southern Aleppo as the country’s air force hit the concentration centers of the militants in Khan Touman region.
Scores of terrorists were killed and wounded in the Syrian army’s offensives in Khan Touman-Ma’arateh linking roads.
Meantime, other army units repulsed the terrorists’ attack in Southern Aleppo….
The terrorists’ positions came under Russian airstrikes in the strategic town of Al-Hadher in Southern Aleppo.
Video footage taken in the Southern part of Aleppo showed the Russian fighter jets delivering a series of powerful airstrikes on the terrorists’ positions the village of Khalsah
There is no evidence so far that Iranian-led counter-attacks have reclaimed any of the lost territory, which included four villages. While Russia has tried to check the rebels with airstrikes, it would be curious if these targeted al-Hadher, since this is still held by pro-Assad forces.
The Iranians also still control Khalasa, although there is heavy fighting near the town.
The article presses on, “The army units are now in full control of the village of Zeitan, Burnah, and Hummayra in Southern Aleppo province.”
Humayra was captured by the rebels on Friday. Zeitan and Burnah were never lost by the Iranian-led forces, although they come be endangered by a further Jaish al-Fatah advance.
Rallying the Public
Iranian media have tried to rally the public despite a growing toll on Tehran’s forces, following a sharp escalation in the Islamic Republic’s intervention last autumn.
The media have acknowledged the loss of more than 300 commanders and troops since October 7. After the loss of Khan Tuman, the Revolutionary Guards admitted multiple casualties for the first time, saying 13 of its troops had been killed and 21 wounded.
Since the start of the year, the Supreme Leader has carried out a series of photo opportunities with the families of “martyrs” and with men wounded in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts. While still not admitting the extent of the intervention, Iran’s military and leading officials have spoken of the necessity of “advisors” to prevent the fall of the Assad regime.
Supreme Leader Repeats Challenge to Government Over Economy
Addressing the new Parliament on Sunday, the Supreme Leader has repeated his challenge to the Rouhani Government over the economy.
Ayatollah Khamenei declared, “We have to look at each government move in the economic field and see where it lies at the chart of the Resistance Economy.”
Domestic production is the solution to recession & unemployment. I am as ashamed as a jobless youth who goes home moneyless & empty-handed.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) June 5, 2016
On Friday, Khamenei warned the Government against excessive pursuit of foreign investment, “Merging a country’s economy with the global economy is not an honor, but a damage….Economic independence will only be achieved through the Resistance Economy.”
The Supreme Leader has chided the President that the “JCPOA” — the nuclear deal implemented in January — must not be followed by a “JCPOA 2” for economy recovery. Instead, he has said that his vision of the Resistance Economy — a goal of self-sufficiency which he announced in 2012 — will be paramount.
The Government should soon submit its long-delayed 2016/17 budget to Parliament for approval. The proposals were supposed to be tabled in December, but were delayed by implementation of the nuclear deal and February’s Parliamentary elections.