Video confirms Iranians in Syria


Footage shows ambush of Revolutionary Guard members bolstering Assad forces

Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor

Last week, the BBC scored a bit of a bizarre media coup when it was able to confirm the authenticity of some combat footage from the war in Syria.

The video had been shot by a cameraman embedded with Iranian volunteers allied with President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters. Although the Iranian government officially denies any direct involvement in Syria’s 30-month civil war, it is widely known that it has been covertly propping up Assad’s government.

The film shows former Revolutionary Guard commander-turned-documentary filmmaker Esmail Heydari and a handful of Iranian fighters discussing how they are in Syria to train pro-Assad Syrian rebels in the use of heavy weapons, such as mortars. Heydari explained to the camera that he came to Syria to fight a holy war against “the infidels.”

This is rather odd given that the pro-Assad forces include not only the Shiite Alawite minority, but also the Chaldean and Armenian Christian factions, which are backing Assad simply to survive against the Sunni extremists in the ranks of the rebels.

The drama heightens when Heydari receives word that a force of rebels is moving toward a poultry farm on the outskirts of Aleppo. The Iranian fighters hastily grab their weapons and leap into the backs of a handful of pickup trucks. At breakneck speed, the small squad of Iranians race to the poultry farm in advance of the oncoming rebels. Heydari spots a couple of rebels in the distance and, although he warns his men that the paucity of visible enemies “could be a trap,” he proceeds to lead his men straight forward.

Heydari’s hunch was right, as the Iranians walk into an ambush by a massive rebel force equipped with tanks and recoilless rifle artillery. In minutes, with the embedded cameraman still filming, Heydari and his entire squad of Iranians are gunned down. The final recorded sequence is of grass and sky after the cameraman gets hit and falls to the ground.

The victorious rebels who discovered the incriminating footage “realized it was gold dust,” in the words of the BBC reporter who was given the video. Here, finally, was the smoking gun to illustrate the rebels’ claims that they are battling the evil Iranians and not just Assad’s Syrian supporters.

To flesh out the BBC piece, the rebels were thoughtful enough to include their own videos of the same engagement, showing their tanks and recoilless rifles blazing away at the trapped Iranians. Despite this proof of complicity, Iran has maintained that Heydari was acting independently in Syria. Nevertheless, he was buried with full military honours in his hometown.

Rightfully so, the West was quick to condemn Iran for mucking about in another country’s internal affairs. The problem with that is, of course, the bald-faced hypocrisy of those wagging their fingers.

The “Syrian” rebels who clobbered the Iranians are also not actually Syrians. The same Sunni versus Shiite holy war magnet that dragged Heydari and his followers to the battle has also ensnared a large number of Sunni extremists from Iraq and Libya.

The most effective fighting force of the “Syrian” rebels is the al-Nusra Front, which is composed of foreign zealots openly linked to al-Qaida. The fact that the victorious force has a main battle tank, artillery and a copious amount of ammunition would appear to indicate a fair level of external support.

Both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have demonstrated their willingness to back the Sunni rebels, and one has to believe that Saudi Arabia is contributing as well. In addition, the main entry point for foreign volunteers and weapons has been across the Turkish border into rebel-controlled regions of Syria.

Turkey is a NATO ally, and we did not condemn their blatant disregard for the arms embargo. Furthermore, the U.S. actually deployed Patriot missile batteries to help protect Turkey in case Syria retaliated.

But if Iran is wrong to interfere in a dispute that is arguably a regional conflict that will directly affect them, how can the West possibly morally defend their own mucking about in the 2011 war in Libya?

In absolute disregard for the limited UN-authorized mandate to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, NATO launched a crippling air campaign in support of the rebels, and British and French special forces worked directly with the Libyan rebels on the ground. We did not enforce the arms embargo but actually armed and equipped the rebels.

Yes, together with the Libyan rebels, NATO was able to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi. We held a victory parade and walked away. We toppled one monster and created a thousand in his stead, many of them with links to al-Qaida.

The unsecured weaponry left behind in Libya led directly to last year’s crisis in Mali. More importantly, two years after the brutal murder of Gadhafi, Libya has devolved into lawless anarchy. With rival tribal militias threatening to plunge the country into another civil war, the absence of any central authority and the oil no longer flowing, Libya has become a failed state.

Now that’s what you call “mucking about.”