TEHERAN• • The death of a top Iranian military commander in Syria at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has not only dealt a "psychological blow" to elements backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but also shows the extent of Iranian involvement in the fighting.
The death of Brigadier-General Hossein Hamedani last Thursday came amid escalating Russian military support for ground operations involving the Syrian regime and Iran-backed forces on several battle fronts.
A senior figure in the Revolutionary Guards, Brig-Gen Hamedani was killed in Aleppo province, where he was advising the Syrian military, news reports said.
The Iranian state news outlet Press TV, citing a statement by the Revolutionary Guards, reported that the general had been killed by ISIS fighters but did not say how he died.
His death prompted an outpouring of grief from Iran's leaders, who have been steadily sending high-ranking military figures to Syria, reproted The New York Times.
Centre to counter ISIS propaganda
PETALING JAYA • Malaysia will set up a regional centre that sends out the "right" message to counter the distorted narrative of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in its recruitment of foreign fighters.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Washington, confirmed that a Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communications Centre would be set up in Malaysia.
"The US will help us in three aspects - training, equipment and operations," Datuk Seri Zahid told Malaysian journalists.
The centre is likely to resemble the one already set up by the US in the United Arab Emirates, which is designed to counter ISIS' social media strength and present a more attractive alternative.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
In a message of condolence, President Hassan Rouhani praised Brig-Gen Hamedani as a "martyr" and said his death was a "big loss".
"He was in charge of operations inside Syria," former Central Intelligence Agency officer Reuel Marc Gerecht was quoted as saying in a CNN report.
"He's been involved in this from A to Z, so in the short term, it's probably a fairly significant loss."
A United States intelligence official said the death would be a setback for fighters supporting the government.
"There's no doubt that it is a psychological blow to pro-regime forces in Syria," he told CNN.
Iran has been providing an economic lifeline and intensive military assistance to Syria's President Assad, whose forces have been locked in a protracted civil war in which more than 250,000 people have died.
Iranian advisers have been aiding the Syrian government on a number of fronts.
They have helped train tens of thousands of fighters in a new pro-government militia called the National Defence Forces; provided strategic, tactical and political advice; and taken important roles in key negotiations, including a deal last year to evacuate rebels from the besieged Old City section of Homs, The New York Times reported.