Videos published online seem to show Iranian military officers working with soldiers from Syria’s regular army, giving them advice and instructions for combat. This footage revives the debate over Iran’s military presence in Syria, even as Iranian authorities continue to deny that they have sent any fighters there.
The videos surfaced online on September 9. They were published by the Daoud brigade, a rebel group based near Idlib, in northwest Syria, which fights the regime alongside rebel soldiers from the Free Syrian Army as well as jihadists from Jabhat Al Nusra. A spokesman for the Douad brigade told Al-Jazeera that they had obtained these videos from a camera they found during fighting in the Aleppo region. About a dozen regime soldiers were killed that day, according to the Daoud brigade, including an Iranian commander named Ismaïl Haydary, who can be seen in the videos. Iranian authorities claim this footage was faked; however, the footage has been reviewed by France 24 staff who speak Arabic and Persian, and they conclude that several details in the videos are strong evidence of their authenticity.
In this first video, the cameraman films inside a building bearing the inscription “Sayyida Rokaya headquarters” (named after the daughter of Hussein. Hussein was the son of Ali, the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, who is revered as a martyr by Shiite Muslims). The cameraman can be heard reading a poster in Arabic, and then translating it into Persian. He then films banners celebrating Ali and Hussein, who are revered by Iranian Shiites – but not by Alawites, who adhere to the branch of Shiism that Syrian president Bashar Al Assad belongs to. In the video, you can also see posters explaining the rules and security regulations that fighters must follow. This text is written in both Arabic and Persian.
Initially published on France24 on 09/13/2013
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