An increasing number of Iranian soldiers and militiamen appear to be dying in Syria’s civil war, and observers credit media from an unexpected country for revealing the trend: Iran.
A flurry of reports in Iran’s official and semiofficial news outlets about the deaths — including funerals and even a eulogy to a fallen general by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — have surprised analysts who monitor the country’s tightly controlled media. The reports, they say, indicate that at least 67 Iranians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of October. Just a few months ago, Iranian media said little about the country’s military intervention in Syria to shore up the government. But as Iranian fighters participate in a new Russian-led offensive against Syrian rebels, Iran’s leaders might have a reason to offer more details of their country’s involvement, said Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “They are proud of this and they want to show it,” he said. Since Iranian forces became increasingly involved in the conflict in 2013, he noted, about 10 fighters were being killed every month, but the numbers surged after Russia, another ally of Syria’s government, began launching airstrikes at rebels in late September.