Monday, 2 May 2016
In another step towards publicly acknowledging its deepening role in the Syrian civil war, the Iranian regime has given its blessing to a large film festival in Tehran next month highlighting Iran’s military achievements in the conflict.
Dubbed the first National Shrine Defenders Film Festival, the event scheduled for May 23-25 will showcase films and videos highlighting the role of fallen Iranian fighters and Iranian-backed guerillas fighting in Syria.
The Fars News Agency and the Katibeh Navay-e Fatemi cultural organization - both aligned with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria - are two main sponsors, according to the festival web site.
Fars News Agency is considered the official mouthpiece of the IRGC, and Navay-e Fatemi is recognized for showcasing IRGC cultural promotions.
Seyyed Ali Taheri, the speaker of the cultural committee in the Iranian parliament, said his committee is also fully supportive of the festival.
Iranian presence in Syria
Over the last two years, the IRGC has led ground battles for the Syrian regime, joining with Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, according to Syrian and Iranian news reports.
Tehran reportedly increased the number of IRGC personnel in Syria in the final months of 2015, sending as many as 3,500 militia fighters to the frontlines. Iranian media say they are there to defend Zeinab Shrine, a holy site for Shi'ite Muslims in the southern suburbs of Damascus.
But news accounts and intelligence reports say Iranian-led forces are the backbone of a Syrian ground battle plan to fight rebels and Islamic State fighters.
The Iranian military presence in Syria was beefed up this month by the deployment of a top army unit in what commanders call an advisory mission, according to state-run media, which also says that more than 220 Iranian fighters have died in the conflict.