Iran continues to be one of the main actors in Syria with at least 120,000 foreign terrorists fighting in alliance with the Bashar Assad regime in the country's seven-year civil war. Tehran has been increasing its presence in the region with some 22 different groups surrounding Idlib from three directions, and the country is currently present in 232 points in Syria.
For a long time, the Assad regime has been conducting its military operations against the opponents in Syria not through its own army, but mainly through Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups.
These groups are stationed predominantly in northwestern Idlib province, the capital city of Damascus, the western province of Homs, the countryside of eastern Deir ez-Zor province and particularly on the Lebanese border.
According to information compiled by Anadolu Agency (AA) reporters from the media outlets of the Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups, Iranian media and opponents in Syria, the Tehran administration started sending militias to Syria for the first time in the beginning of 2014.
Syrian opponents also fought with Iran-backed Hezbollah militias before. Hezbollah first gave support to the regime during its operations near the Lebanese border late 2012.
Six months later, the group announced its entity and support to the regime in al-Qusayr district of the countryside of Homs.
During this period, commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were regarded as "consultants" in conflict zones and military education fields, while the soldiers of the guards were regarded as the "fighters."
Apart from being involved in the war physically, the Revolutionary Guards provided training and logistical support to militias fighting in Syria.
Half of Iran-backed groups in Syria in or around Idlib
It is known that currently more than 120,000 Iran-backed terrorists are in Syria. Nearly half of these forces are already stationed around Idlib.
Some 22 Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups surrounding Idlib's de-escalation zone from three directions are present in 232 different points.
A total of 12 groups stationed in the east of Idlib and western Aleppo are as follows:
Afghan-origin Fatemiyoun and Pakistan-origin Zainabiyoun brigades, the Iraqi al-Nujaba movement, Badr Forces, Imam Ali and Imam Hossein Brigades, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Bakr Brigades, Iranian-origin Quds forces and Mahdi Army, Syrian Galibiyyun Brigades and the Owner of Rights Units.
In Syria, there are other groups as well; such as the Iranian Basij Brigades, Liwa Zainebiyoun Brigades, the Palestinian Quds Brigades, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its special forces.
According to sources speaking to AA, these groups, which are deployed in Homs and Damascus will also come to Idlib in case of a possible military operation.
Iran lost senior figures during the operations conducted against its Syrian opponents.
According to the information compiled by AA from Iranian official and semi-official media outlets, at least 15 generals were killed since February 2013. Iran's heaviest loss in Syria was Hossein Hamadani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander who was killed in Aleppo in 2015.