Iranian General Chahrbaghi, the former commander of the IRGC artillery, said that Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei had sent IRGC Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani to Syria in order to protect Bashar Al-Assad's regime. He made these remarks in an interview with Channel 5 (Iran) that aired on January 1, 2021. General Chahrbaghi said that Al-Assad's regime had been an ally of Iran and it supported it during the Iran-Iraq war. He explained that Soleimani was sent to Iran to make sure that Al-Assad's regime was not toppled, because this would have caused great problems for Iran. General Chahrbaghi added that when Soleimani first arrived on the scene in 2012, ISIS was not yet involved in the war in Syria. He continued to say that at first, the IRGC role in Syria was only an advisory one, as publicly stated, however, once it became evident that the "whole world" strived to topple Bashar Al-Assad's regime, this had changed.
Gen. Mahmoud Chahrbaghi: "The first time I saw Hajj Qasem [Soleimani] in Syria was in December 2012. At his request, I was sent to Syria with the task of gauging the situation.
"Back then, there was no ISIS. There were militants who opposed Bashar Al-Assad."
Interviewer: "Inside Syria..."
Chahrbaghi: "We need to distinguish between them. I will explain the difference between those militants and ISIS. I'll say it here. The militants were people who opposed Bashar Al-Assad, and they revolted in order to topple him. ISIS, however, wanted to take over the Levant and Iraq, and it came into being only later."
Interviewer: "What was your role in Syria back then?"
Chahrbaghi: "Back then, I had no role in Syria. I was the commander of the IRGC artillery, and I was sent there with the mission of filing a report to General Soleimani, which I did."
Interviewer: "Do you recall when General Soleimani joined the fighting in Syria?"
Chahrbaghi: "Right from the start, Mr. Soleimani's mission was... The conditions were very difficult. One may say that most countries decided to topple Bashar Al-Assad and his government. Because the government of Syria had been our ally during the eight years of the [Iran-Iraq] War of Holy Defense, and because it was one of the countries in the axis of resistance, the Honorable Leader [Khamenei] said to General Soleimani: 'Go and protect Bashar Al-Assad.' General Soleimani's mission in Syria was to prevent the Bashar Al-Assad government from falling.
"At first, we really played the role of advisors there, as [publicly] stated. But then we saw that the whole world came to confront Bashar Al-Assad, and Bashar Al-Assad was our ally. Had he been toppled, this would have caused great problems to our dear country, the Islamic Republic."