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Will Iran pursue high-cost strategy in Syria?

A previously unpublished speech by an Iranian general who was killed in Syria may reveal efforts to justify Iran's growing involvement in Syria.

Since major operations began in late September in Syria, Iran has lost dozens of military officers — just under 50, according to Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani. The coordinated offensive in Aleppo with Russian air power, the Syrian army and Iranian advisers has resulted in major victories, but at a heavy cost. And Iran's game plan doesn't seem likely to change.

The Syrian civil war is treated as a national security issue in Iran and by Iranian media. Media critical of Iran’s involvement in the 4½-year-old conflict typically refrain from controversial coverage of the topic, making it difficult at times to gauge public opinion. In some ways, the Syrian war is treated the same as the nuclear deal was treated under the administration of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in that there was little discussion or internal debate, particularly in the media. While President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure has brought a relatively robust and sometimes destructive debate on the nuclear issue, the topic of Syria still appears off-limits. This is why the statements of Iranian officials can be revealing and shed light perhaps not on public opinion, but on some of the internal discussions taking place in the military and political leadership.

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