Investigating the events before and after Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, clearly indicates that the goal of this attack was to support the operations of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in the northern province of Hama. Since the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian opposition began to advance in the north of Hama from March 21, 2017, and reached within three kilometers of the city of Hama, the IRGC dispatched its forces in Damascus and its suburbs with its highest ranking commanders to this area. Now these forces are present in the North and West of the city of Hama and around the town of Soran. These forces include battalions of the 19th Fajr Shiraz Division, battalions of the division known as Nabi Akram of Kermanshah, Saberine special battalions of Tehran province and Ninawa brigade forces in Golestan province.
Less than two weeks before the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, dozens of IRGC forces and their mercenaries, including some of the IRGC commanders were killed in the region. Some of them include:
• Revolutionary Guards Corps Brigadier General Abdullah Khoshnoud from 19th Fajr Division on March 29 in the outskirts of Hama;
• Colonel Morad Abbasifar, from the division known as Nabi Akram who had close relationship with Qasem Soleimani, in late March in the town of Moardas in northeast of city of Hama;
• Mohammad Jannati known as Haj Haidar, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Syria, in late March in Tarabee near the city of Halfaya;
• Saeed Khaja Salehani, an IRGC officer, on March 25 in north of Hama;
• Hossein Moez Gholami of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, Abuzar Farahbakhsh and Ghodratollah Aboudi from 19th Fajr Division in Hama province;
Moreover, a large number of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries who were sent by the IRGC to Hama province were killed in different parts. The extent of the losses was so high that on March 31, four days before the chemical attack, Qassem Soleimani visited the IRGC forces in the north of Hama to boost their morale.
The goal of chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun was changing the balance of power in favor of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The IRGC conflict zone was on average 20 km away from Khan Sheikhoun.
After the chemical attack, the IRGC forces continued their assault in the area and last week the bodies of a number of Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries were returned to Iran.
Since Bashar al-Assad’s ground force has been significantly weakened, offensive ground operations in Syria are mainly carried out by the IRGC and Assad’s air force is tasked with supporting the IRGC in these operations.
Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Hossein Hamadani, who was the commander of the IRGC forces and was killed in October 2015 around the city of Aleppo, wrote in his memoirs, “In March 2013 (opposition) was quite close to a victory … they tightened the noose and got closer to the Syrian Presidential Palace such that they were set to occupy the palace… Bashar al-Assad also thought it was over and was pursuing to go to another country.” Hamadani then explains how the IRGC saved Bashar al-Assad from being overthrown.
The role of the clerical regime and the IRGC in recent chemical attack proves once again that the only way to end war and bloodshed in Syria is to evict the mullahs’ regime and to expel the IRGC and its mercenaries from the country.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
April 19, 2017