A senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been killed near Aleppo in north-west Syria, it has been reported by Iran's state media. Asghar Bashpour was a close aide of General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the US last month.
Bashpour was killed during a major campaign by Syrian regime forces and their Iranian militia allies against opposition groups near the key city, as well as in the neighbouring province of Idlib.
بسم رب الشهداء و الصدیقین
استشهاد القائد اصغر پاشاپور من قوات الحرس الثوري الایراني فی ریف حلب
الرحمه لروحه الطاهره
لم يقوى على الفراق ؛ فإلتحق بالقاسم..🌒
أصغر باشابور شهيد 🖤 pic.twitter.com/UG09IqZ1Jk
— Moussawi (@am52918699) February 3, 2020
Hailing from the city of Ray, south of the Iranian capital Tehran, Bashpour was one of the first officers to accompany Soleimani as he established the elite IRGC in Syria from the early days of the ongoing nine-year-long civil war. He was especially responsible for conducting and overseeing all Iranian-backed Special Forces operations within the country, a role given more prominence following Soleimani's killing.
The exact details of Bashpour's death have not been revealed. It is most likely, though, that he was killed while fighting the opposition Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), or possibly by an opposition missile strike at the IRGC base in Nayrab in southern Aleppo.
While both Soleimani's and Bashpour's deaths are serious losses for Iran in Syria, the Bashar Al-Assad regime with which they worked has been making gains in the area. Last week, regime forces and their affiliated militias captured the second largest town in Idlib province, Maarat Al-Nu'man, which lies on the major M5 highway that links Aleppo to the capital Damascus.
With this key victory, as well as the fact that regime forces and their allies captured ten towns and villages in less than 48 hours – followed by dozens more – they are expected to advance even closer against Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in Syria.
With much of the country having been recaptured by the regime, resulting in many of the citizens again being subject to oppression and torture, Idlib has long been in Assad's sights. Throughout much of last year, however, little progress was made towards retaking it from the opposition until Russian ground troops and Iranian forces became involved, helping Assad to advance into much of the province.