Identity of Iranian general deploying air defenses in Syria exposed

Senior commander was named as IRGC Aerospace Force deputy coordinator Brig. Gen. Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A senior officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is the man installing air defenses from Tehran in both Lebanon and Syria, intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon revealed in his Intelli Times blog Monday.

Brig. Gen. Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei is responsible “for operational coordination with the Syrian army, for the deployment of air defense systems, electronic warfare, and other airborne tools, in order to threaten Israeli Air Force activity in the area,” he wrote.

Saghaei is the deputy coordinator of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force. His identity as the man behind Iran’s efforts to protect its resources in Israel’s northern neighbor was revealed in a Friday report by al-Arabiya. Solomon stated that he had confirmed with Western intelligence sources that the Saudi Arabian paper had spelled his name incorrectly but that this was the same person.

According to Al-Arabiya, Saghaei came to Damascus several times to try coordinating the delivery of the systems. The report’s sources said that Jerusalem knew about the attempts.

In July 2020, Syria and Iran signed a military cooperation agreement that specifically stated that Tehran would supply Damascus with its newest anti-aircraft system. The “3-Khordad” is considered on par with Russia’s S-300 system that Moscow had installed in Syria and manned with its own troops in 2019.

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Due to its deconfliction mechanism with Israel, however, the Russians have not used it against IAF jets striking Iranian or Iranian-backed forces and targets in Syria.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported Sunday that the IDF’s alleged attack the previous morning on the Syrian town of Al-Hamidiyah had targeted Iranian attempts to introduce “game-changing” air defense systems into Syria. The report named Saghaei as the senior IRGC commander leading this “new effort,” without giving his rank or position.

Solomon wondered in a tweet Monday whether Israel’s alleged Saturday attack was “meant to destroy offensive aerial infrastructure that Iran, with Hezbollah’s help, tried to install on the coastline near the border with Lebanon.”

“Satellite documentation from the area of the attack,” he continued, “can identify a dead-end service road that can easily be used as a track for launching unmanned aircraft or for deploying other mobile air systems.”

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported earlier that the Israeli missiles had struck Hezbollah weapons storage sites. In contrast, the regime’s official news agency, SANA, said the targets had been “poultry farms,” with two civilians being injured in the blast.

Moscow sharply criticized Israel for the attack, which Jerusalem has neither confirmed nor denied. Its foreign ministry called it “completely unacceptable” and demanded that Israel “immediately” cease its violations of Syria’s sovereignty.

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Al-Hamidiyah is located only some 20 kilometers away from Russia’s Tartus naval base in southern Syria.

The disclosure of Saghaei’s identity comes amid recent reports of dismissals and assassinations of high-level IRGC officers and mysterious blasts and cyberattacks at their facilities within Iran. The reports reinforce perceptions that the IRGC is in disarray over Israel’s new “Octopus Doctrine.”

“We are implementing the Octopus Doctrine,” former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “We no longer play with the tentacles, with Iran’s proxies: we’ve created a new equation by going for the head.”