An Iranian regime insider says Iran’s military presence in Syria for many years was directly ordered by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ali Shirazi, the former representative of Khamenei in IRGC’s Quds Force said Wednesday that “when the Supreme Leader ordered former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani to go to Syria, he did not argue. He went and resisted firmly.”

“However, [other] officials including then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not believe we should go to Syria and fight against ISIS,” he added. Shirazi’s comments about fighting ISIS contradict the fact that when Iran intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2011 the Islamic State group did not exist yet. Iran sent thousands of fighters and weapons to defend the government of Bashar al-Assad.

ISIS gained a foothold in Syria after the group seized large swaths of territory in Iraq in mid-2014. Soleimani intervened in Syria as opposition to Assad was gaining momentum. He first played the role of an advisor to the government, but later he spearheaded Iran’s large-scale military intervention in the civil war. Many believe he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians and call him the child-killing commander. Soleimani was killed in Baghdad along with nine others in 2020 by a drone strike ordered by then-President Donald Trump.

The Qods Force under Soleimani became deeply involved in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Trump claimed that the general, who was Iran’s main operative in the Middle East, was killed because he was planning attacks on US troops.