- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2015

A top Iranian military commander was killed by Islamic State fighters on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Aleppo on Thursday night, Iranian media reported.

In a statement Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lamented the death of Gen. Hussein Hamedani, a key player in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Forces and a ground-level commander in Tehran’s ongoing military support of Syria’s government.

The Tasmin News Agency said Mr. Rouhani offered his “condolences on the martyrdom” of Hamedani, who was killed “while in an advisory mission in Syria.”

The agency said the general rose to prominence in Iran’s military during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

The Long War Journal, meanwhile, noted that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and played a central role in crushing pro-reform student protests in Tehran in 1999 and again in 2009.

The Journal, published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said Hamedani was head of an IRGC security unit in Tehran, where police, the Guards and its Basij militia allies clashed with protesters — and that the general has since 2011 been subjected to international sanctions for violating human rights.

Reuters cited an unnamed Iranian official as saying Hamedani was a close ally of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian military’s elite Quds Force — an arm of the IRGC focused on international missions.

Hamedani was a very influential figure and very close to Soleimani. He was an expert of Syria,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “A very valuable commander and a true believer of Islam and the [1979 Islamic] revolution [of Iran].”

Tehran denies having any military forces in Syria, but claims it has offered military advice to forces loyal to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his fight against terrorist groups.

Reuters also pointed to Iranian news websites that have published pictures of Soleimani on the front lines in Iraq helping Iraqi forces fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

The Quds Force commander is also believed to have traveled to Russia in July to collaborate with Moscow on its own plans for a military campaign in Syria.

Russia has conducted airstrikes in Syria since late-September. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his goal is to target the ISIL, Russian fighter jets have also hit other rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime, including groups that the U.S. has been trying to help arm and finance for the past three years.

Hamedani is believed to be the second high-ranking Iranian official killed in Syria. Another was reportedly killed there in June.

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