Tehran (agencies):Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have scaled back deployment of their senior officers in Syria due to a spate of deadly Israeli strikes and will rely more on allied Shiite militia to preserve their sway there, five sources familiar with the matter said.
The Guards have suffered one of their most bruising spells in Syria since arriving a decade ago to aid President Bashar Assad in the Syrian war. Since December, Israeli strikes have killed more than half a dozen of their members, among them one of the Guards’ top intelligence generals.
As hard-liners in Tehran demand retaliation, Iran’s decision to pull out senior officers is driven partly by its aversion to being sucked directly into a conflict bubbling across the Middle East, three of the sources told Reuters. While the sources said Iran has no intention of quitting Syria — a key part of Tehran’s sphere of influence — the rethink underscores how the consequences of the war ignited by Palestinian militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel are unfolding in the region.
Iran, a backer of Hamas, has sought to stay out of the conflict itself even as it supports groups that have entered the fray from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria — the so-called “Axis of Resistance” that is hostile to Israeli and US interests. One of the sources — a senior regional security official briefed by Tehran — said senior Iranian commanders had left Syria along with dozens of mid-ranking officers, describing it as a downsizing of the presence. The source did not say how many Iranians had left and Reuters was unable independently to determine that.