Occasionally, the Iranian media publish reports that do not serve the regime's political positions; when this happens, the reports are summarily deleted from the regime-affiliated websites on which they appeared, usually immediately after publication.
This report, concerning Iranian military involvement in Syria, is the first in a series reviewing these deleted Iranian media reports.
Iranian News Agency Fars Publishes, Then Deletes Report Of IRGC Commander's Statements On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria
On May 4, 2014, the Fars news agency, which is close to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), published a speech delivered by Hossein Hamedani, former commander of the IRGC forces in Tehran province, at a regime conference in Hamedan province in western Iran. In his speech, Hamedani revealed the extent of Iran's military involvement in the fighting in Syria.
Hamedani explained in his speech that Iran is defending the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with its forces, out of concern for the interests of the Islamic Revolution – just as it defended itself in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). He added that Iran has established popular militias in 14 provinces in Syria, comprising 70,000 Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Alawites, as part of its defense of the Assad regime; he called these militias "the second Hizbullah." He also noted that 130,000 trained members of Iran's Basij were awaiting orders to enter Syria.
Also in his speech, Hamedani called on Iran's citizens to assist the Assad regime via aid headquarters set up by the regime across Iran, and stated that this aid was equivalent to the aid that the Iranian people had provided to Iran's fighters in the Iran-Iraq war.
A short time later, Fars removed its report on Hamedani's statements, because the statements deviated from Tehran's official position – which is that Iran is not involved militarily in the fighting in Syria but is only providing moral support to President Assad. However, the Iranian Culture Ministry's department for translating articles from the foreign media translated a May 7 Time article stating that Fars had deleted the report about Hamedani's speech a few hours after publishing it so as not to fan the flames of the Shi'ite-Sunni conflict in Syria.
The following are the main points of Hamedani's speech, as published by Fars before the news agency removed it from its website:
The report on the Fars website prior to its removal
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Hamedani In Speech: Iran Is Defending Syria As It Defended Itself In Iran-Iraq War
In his speech, Hamedani said: "Because of the great damage suffered by Syria and its people due to terrorism, headquarters have been set up across Iran to provide aid to Syrian people... so that [the Syrian people] will know that the Iranian nation is always by its side. Recently, there was a meeting in Tehran at which each [Iranian] province's part in supporting Syria was decided. In the framework of the establishment of a headquarters for the support of the Syrian nation, every Iranian province has been designated to assist a Syrian province.
"By means of the jihadi administration of the [regime] officials, the bazaar merchants, and the public of Hamedan [province], we must treat Syria just like we treat the Islamic Revolution [in Iran] and support the fighters of Islam and the Syrian people just as we supported [the Iranian fighters] in the Iran-Iraq war."
One Of The U.S.'s Aims In Syria Is To Harm Iran's Strength In The Region
Hamedani continued: "In recent years, Syria has become a geopolitical area of vital importance in the regional balance of power. In the Syria crisis, Russia, China, and Iran constitute the 'friends of Syria' camp, while a camp aspiring to topple Syria, comprising several Arab countries, Turkey, the U.S., and countries in Europe, has formed on the other side.
"All the [above] countries seek to obtain their interests in Syria. One of the interests sought by both the Americans and the Europeans – which they openly acknowledge – is to provide security for Israel. An additional interest that both the Americans and the Russians... seek to obtain [in Syria] is regional prestige and superpower [status].
"Another American interest [in Syria] is to push Iran out of its status in the region. Leader [Khamenei] has already clarified that if Bashar Al-Assad gives the Americans [even a] minimal green light [indicating that he might heed them and abandon the resistance axis], Syria will become the leader of the Arab world, and [the regime of] Bashar Al-Assad will be preserved by the Arab countries.
"The [Syrian] Ba'th regime is completely different from the Iraqi Ba'th regime, both militarily and organizationally. When the Islamic Revolution was sparked in Iran, the first country to officially recognize it was Syria. During the Iran-Iraq war, Syria helped Iran tremendously, and did something very important for it when it cut off the transfer of Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean. The Iran-Syria unity, the achievements of the Syrian regime in the past 30 years, the establishment of Hizbullah, and the strengthening of the resistance front have had a huge impact on the Syria crisis; if not for these, it would have been easy for the U.S. [to take over] the region."
Hossein Hamedani (image: presstv.ir)
Iran Has Established A "Second Hizbullah" In Syria
"Bashar Al-Assad is fighting in our name. Today, we are fighting on Syrian [soil] because of interests such as the Islamic Revolution, and we are defending [Syria] just as we defended [the Iranian homeland] in the Iran-Iraq war.
"In this crisis, Iran has shared its experience with Syria, expecting nothing in return; in this framework, it has provided it with [various kinds of] guidance, including separating [Syria's] armed forces from the people [i.e. the Syrian pro-regime militias] – a step that has reduced the number of losses... [In addition,] a national defense was established in 14 Syrian provinces... 42 groups and 138 brigades comprising 70,000 young Alawites, Sunnis, and Shi'ites have been set up, in the framework of a national [Syrian] Basij [paramilitary force], and it is they who are responsible for the security of Syria's cities and provinces. Security has prevailed in Damascus for the past year and a half; today, there is no problem in walking around in the streets of the city. The insecurity and the bombings have been reduced to a minimum.
"When the U.S. announced its willingness to attack Damascus, Israel's prime minister said, 'You are coming in order to weaken Hizbullah and to cut off the arm of Iran.' But Iran has established a second Hizbullah in Syria. The war in Syria is endless. In light of the fact that every country aspires to obtain its own interests [in Syria], the fighting there will continue.
"The Syrian army remains loyal [to Assad], in contrast to the situation in Egypt, where the army removed its support from [president] Mubarak and things in Egypt developed as they did. Surveys have shown that 64% of the [Syrian] people voted for Bashar Al-Assad, even though several circles do not want him to receive so many votes. Today, Syria has no security, military, or armament problem. Today, 130,000 trained Basij members are waiting to enter Syria..."
 It should be stressed that Hamedani's statements are similar to statements by Mehdi Taeb, the head of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's Ammar Base think tank and the brother of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence bureau director Hossein Taeb, with regard to Syria's strategic importance to Iran and to how the former effectively constitutes part of the latter. In March 2013, Taeb said: "Syria is [Iran's] 35th province, and it is a strategic province for us," and clarified that if Iran's enemies were to attack both Syria and Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province, Tehran would prioritize its preservation of Syria over preservation of Khuzestan, because the loss of Syria would lead to the loss of Tehran itself. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 946, Iranian Official: The Loss Of Syria Will Lead To The Loss Of Tehran Itself; Syria Is An Iranian Province; Iran Has Formed A 60,000-Strong Syrian Basij; Israel Is Our Only Threat, March 11, 2013.
 Foreignmedia.farhang.gov.ir, May 7, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), May 4, 2014.