Some 2,100 Iranian soldiers have been killed in Syria and Iraq over the past seven years, the first official statistic on military losses in the conflict has revealed, according to the New Khalij.
The figure was announced at a tree planting ceremony in Tehran yesterday, in which a seeding tree was sowed for each soldier who had died. The families of the dead were also in attendance as well as members of Tehran City Council.
The Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has been leading multi-national militias loyal to Iran for seven years in Syria, as well as in Iraq. Tehran says the nature of the presence of its forces is “advisory”, justified by “an official request” for military intervention from Damascus and Baghdad.
Iran’s presence in Syria has caused concerns among regional and international players, due to the establishment of the so-called Shia Crescent, a corridor from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, to the Mediterranean Sea.
The death toll comes amid revelations last week of internal differences between Iranian officials on support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad at the beginning of the conflict. According to Vice President of Intelligence in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Hamid Mahbi, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was unwilling to continue support for Assad, reportedly saying “We must not pay the price in Syria … Bashar Al-Assad will end”.
However, his position was rejected by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who believes that retreating from the Syria conflict will create problems for the future.
At the end of last year Iran witnessed demonstrations in more than 80 cities across the country as people took to the streets to protest living conditions and soaring costs. Many chanted slogans against Iran’s role in Syria demanding a halt to Iranian spending on regional interventions.
In response, the Revolutionary Guard said that the protests had been fomented by “foreign enemies” and were subsequently defeated. More than a week of unrest saw 22 people die and more than 1,000 arrested.