Report: Iranian military commander killed in Syria identified as Mohammad Reza Zahedi

The senior military commander who reportedly was killed Monday in a suspected Israeli airstrike in Syria has played a “key role” in the Islamic Republic’s support of Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, the U.S. says. The U.S. Treasury Department, which sanctioned Mohammad Reza Zahedi in 2010, says he has “acted as a liaison to Hezbollah and Syrian intelligence services and is reportedly charged with guaranteeing weapons shipments to Hezbollah.” Zahedi was a senior leader in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, which also has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a “The IRGC-QF is one of the Iranian regime’s primary organizations responsible for conducting covert lethal activities outside of Iran, including asymmetric and terrorist operations,” according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). “Iran views terrorism as a tool that it can use to support its efforts to deter and counter its perceived foes, assert leadership over Shia Muslims worldwide, and project power in the Middle East.” The NCTC says the IRGC-QF “targets U.S., Israeli, Saudi, and UAE interests, as well as Iranian dissident groups” and is comprised of between 5,000 and 15,000 of the most loyal personnel from the broader Revolutionary Guard Corps. Zahedi died Monday in an alleged Israeli airstrike that hit the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, a Lebanese security source told Reuters. its involvement in the attack. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked about the reported strike, told reporters Monday that “our team is looking into it.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Digital following the strike that “it’s likely that Zahedi was a critical part of the connective tissue between Iran’s IRGC Quds Force and the Assad regime in Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah.” “The former is Iran’s oldest state-level ally, and the latter is Iran’s most successful proxy organization,” he said. “The Assad regime in Syria is the literal bridge between Iran and Hezbollah.” Taleblu said Zahedi gained military experience in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and also briefly was “the head of IRGC Air Force as well as commander of Iran’s IRGC Ground Forces.” Iranian media outlets also are reporting that Zahedi was the chief Quds Force official in the Syrian and Lebanese theaters between the late 2000s to the late 2010s, according to Taleblu.