Syrian opposition forces have confirmed earlier reports that Iranian forces and militias are fighting alongside Syrian regime forces, Shaam Network reported yesterday. The media outlet is linked to the opposition in Syria.
The network discovered the Iranian involvement in certain areas like southern Idlib, northern Hama and eastern Latakia – all in the north-west of the country – while monitoring the regime's activities in Idlib province. The sources reported that the Iranian forces and militias have not always been involved in the fighting in that part of the country. They were not present at the beginning of the regime's assault on Idlib in April this year, for example, nor were they involved in the conflict while they were deployed to the west of Aleppo.
Their presence on the battlefield, therefore, has been a more recent development. Iranian militias are believed to have arrived in the area recently to participate in military operations launched by the regime and Russia against opposition forces in the countryside around Idlib and Hama.
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The revelations of Iranian military involvement against opposition forces confirms opposition reports last month that Russia was using Iranian forces to fight in the north-west, and comes amid a renewed effort in the campaign in that part of Syria over the weekend. Regime forces helped by the Russians have been waging an all-out air and land assault on Idlib province since April; the attacks are ongoing.
Iran's involvement has, until recently, been limited to an advisory and logistical role in support of the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, with military advisors and militias having been deployed to Iranian sites throughout the country. The decision to join the fighting against opposition groups directly follows on from the involvement of Russian troops on the ground in Idlib in recent months instead of restricting their involvement to the previous air support role.
Throughout the assault on Idlib, the final major stronghold of the Syrian opposition, the regime has been in urgent need of military assistance from Russia and Iran, due to its failure to make advances in the province by itself in the face of strong opposition resistance. Ever since Russian ground troops were deployed, as well as the Iranian forces more recently, the regime has been making rapid progress in recapturing areas in southern Idlib and northern Hama.