IRGC official behind Iranian air defense deployment in Syria revealed

The report comes shortly after an alleged Israeli airstrike reportedly hit Iranian air-defense systems in Syria.

 Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei, deputy coordinator of the IRGC's Aerospace Force (photo credit: ISNA)
Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei, deputy coordinator of the IRGC's Aerospace Force
(photo credit: ISNA)

Brig.-Gen. Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei has been identified as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official in charge of deploying advanced Iranian air-defense systems in Syria and Lebanon, according to an independent Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon, who runs the Intelli Times blog.

Saghaei serves as the deputy coordinator of the IRGC's Aerospace Force. His identification as the IRGC official in charge of deploying Iran air defenses in Syria was first hinted at in a report by al-Arabiya on Friday, although Solomon clarified that the name they reported at the time (Faird Muhammad Thaqa'i) was slightly incorrect.

Solomon says he was able to confirm the report and the correct name of the IRGC official with Western intelligence sources.

According to the al-Arabiya report from Friday, Saghaei had visited Damascus several times in the past in order to promote efforts to bring Iranian air defenses to the country. Western intelligence sources told al-Arabiya that Israel is aware of the project and is determined to prevent the formation of an Iranian air defense network in Syria.

 IRGC air-defense system (credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)
IRGC air-defense system (credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)

In an interview in 2020, Saghaei stated during an air-defense drill that the IRGC's Aerospace Force has a "series of surprising capabilities to deal with the enemy," adding that "the enemies will see our surprising power when they need it."

Recent alleged Israeli airstrike targeted Iranian air-defense systems

Arabic-language media reported over the weekend that an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting sites south of Tartus on Saturday morning was aimed at hitting Iranian air-defense systems that had been deployed in the area, just a day after the al-Arabiya report was published. The area hit is located just north of the border between Lebanon and Syria.

Syrian state media reported that the airstrike only hit poultry farms in the area, injuring two civilians.

In March, The Jerusalem Post reported that Iran had used advanced air-defense batteries it had deployed in Syria against Israeli planes conducting airstrikes in the country. The systems were deployed to Syria last year.

In 2020, Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub and Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Bagheri signed a military cooperation agreement, including a commitment by Iran to strengthen Syrian air defense systems.