Iran Sending More Military Advisers to Syria, Official Says

Iran is deploying more military advisers to Syria at the request of President Bashar al-Assad's government, a senior Foreign Ministry official revealed on Tuesday, in comments circulated by the Iranian press.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an Iranian deputy foreign minister, speaking at a European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) event in London, denied that Iranian combat troops were on the ground in Syria. He said that more military advisers, including the notorious Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani who has already reportedly made a number of visits to Syria, had been sent to the civil war-torn country.

"It is not true that Russia is advancing in Syria through air support and Iran on the ground; we have no fighting troops deployed in Syria. Iran merely gives the Syrian government necessary consultations in regard to the fight against terrorism," said Amir-Abdollahian. He added that Iran had increased its number of military advisers in the country in recent days, according to Tehran-based Mehr News Agency.

His comments were also published by Iran's Tehran Times, Press TV and pro-Iranian Lebanese channel Al Mayadeen.

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The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed the visit of an Iranian deputy foreign minister to London. A spokesman said that the minister met with Tobias Ellwood, Under Secretary of State for the FCO with special responsibility for the Middle East and North Africa on Wednesday, to discuss regional issues. ECFR were not available for comment and did not respond to a comment request by email.

One of Tehran's most important military advisers, Gen. Hossein Hamadani, was killed in the Syrian city of Aleppo earlier this month. He had been in the country to advise the Syrian army in their battle against the militant group ISIS, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards confirmed in a statement seen by Reuters.

Iran routinely denies having any combat forces in Syria but Lebanese sources told Reuters earlier this month that hundreds of troops had arrived since September to carry out a planned major ground offensive against enemies of the Assad regime. The offensive to retake the strategic northern Syrian city of Aleppo began last week, involving Russian airstrikes, Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen and Syrian forces.

Tehran has acted as a key ally to Assad and his forces during the civil war in Syria, providing financial and tactical assistance. In 2013, Tehran granted Syria a credit line of $3.6 billion. It also supports Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militiamen, who are fighting alongside the Syrian army against rebels, both moderate and radical.

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Last month, Russia also entered the conflict, beginning an airstrike campaign against all parties opposed to the Syrian regime, assisted by reported coordination with the Iranian military, although Iran has denied that Iranian ground troops were supporting Russian airstrikes.

Regional sources told Reuters that Soleimani, the former head of Iran's paramilitary Quds Force, traveled to Moscow and mapped out the Iran-Russia cooperation in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the months prior to Russia's intervention.

Iran Sending More Military Advisers to Syria, Official Says |