Iranian Official Reportedly Killed in Syria
Author: An Al-Monitor Lebanon Pulse Contributor in Beirut Posted February 15, 2013
According to exclusive information provided to Al-Monitor, Houssam Khosh Nweis, director of the Iranian Council for Reconstruction in Lebanon, was killed in Syria after members of the Syrian opposition fired at his car while he was traveling on the road to Damascus International Airport. The source confirmed that a general officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who was accompanying him was also killed in the car. There is information that this officer is an Iranian general who was responsible for the Revolutionary Guard’s activities in Lebanon.
Until this very moment, there continues to be conflicting information about the place and circumstances of the accident that ended Nweis’ life. One version of the story says that he was abducted while carrying out a mission to determine the needs of Syrian Shiite villages in the Homs region. He sustained tremendous injuries and was killed by his kidnappers, along with his Iranian and Syrian companions, in an abhorrent manner.
There is not, however, strong material evidence to confirm this story, in spite of its popularity among Hezbollah elements. The second version states that he was killed on the Lebanon-Syria road, knowing that this road had not seen any security incidents since the beginning of events because it is highly protected by the 4th Syrian division. Additionally, most of the villages along this road are Alawite pro-regime towns, preventing the opposition from carrying out military operations there. The most realistic story so far is the one relayed to Al-Monitor, that the accident occurred on the road to the international airport in Damascus.
The same source confirmed that Nweis is an important figure in Iran’s leadership, particularly since he has assumed critical diplomatic roles in the past and has had a close and long relationship with Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran.
It should be noted that the airport road on which the incident took place is generally seen as low-security area. This is due to the fact that armed opposition groups control the neighboring areas, some of which overlook the road.
It is also to be noted that the Iranian leadership delayed the announcement of Nweis’ death for 24 hours, in order to think of a suitable exit strategy. Remarkably, the Iranian Embassy in Lebanon announced the death, in order to shed light on the fact that his relief efforts were concentrated in Lebanon. This reflects Tehran’s desire to cover his missions in Syria in a way that aligns with Iran's policy not to show its interference in Syrian internal affairs at every level. Moreover, the announcement left out the killing of the Revolutionary Guard officer who was with him in the car.
Nweis emerged as an influential figure in the top Iranian leadership through several critical roles he assumed, including his key role in drawing the Iranian relief operations’ political plans for countries affected by the war. The most prominent roles include supervising the reconstruction of what was destroyed during the July 2006 war in Lebanon. Nweis arrived in Beirut on the day following the end of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel, where he oversaw the Iranian-funded reconstruction projects in many southern Lebanese villages. However, his efforts focused on developing plans to reconstruct the entire neighborhoods that were destroyed in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which are considered to be a Hezbollah stronghold.
Nweis is a prominent figure among those who shape the “humanitarian diplomacy” of Tehran, which seeks to highlight Iran’s international political and humanitarian presence, and to create political influence in the Arab Levant’s social structure, through its relief operations and reconstruction projects in areas destroyed by the war.
He is also one of the most prominent figures upon whom the Iranian leadership and Revolutionary Guard in particular rely, to lay the foundations of humanitarian aid policies in countries critical to Iran’s national security. The objective is to confront USAID’s activities, which Iran believes is providing humanitarian assistance in many countries of the region in order to promote its influence.
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