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Assad regime said to shun Iranian commander for nearly starting war with Israel

Saudi outlet says Quds Force chief in Syria accused of ‘major breach of Syrian sovereignty’ after attacking US forces, placing Iranian weapons in unapproved places

Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, Iran, February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, Iran, February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP)

Syria’s leadership has shunned the commander of Iran’s Quds Force in the country after he almost caused an “unwanted regional war” with Israel, according to a report Wednesday.

Mustafa Javad Ghafari has also been “excluded” over a series of actions he took that were viewed by dictator Bashar Assad as “a major breach of Syrian sovereignty at all levels,” according to AlHadath, a Saudi television network operated by Al Arabiya.

The report said that acting “contrary to instructions,” Ghafari led “a number of activities against the United States and Israel that almost led to the entry of Syria into an unwanted regional war, including the attack on American targets in Syria on October 20 by Iranian-backed militias.”

That drone attack targeted a remote US military base, causing no casualties.

The report also said that amid a series of alleged Israeli raids, reportedly against Iran-linked targets, “Ghafari admitted the presence of Iranian elements and weapons in the areas where the Syrian regime prohibited their deployment.”

Citing an unnamed source familiar with the developments in Syria, the report said the move against Ghafari was taken by high-ranking officials in the Assad regime, after “months of disputes.”

Among his misdeeds, Ghafari “transgressed Syrian customs and smuggled goods with the aim of creating a ‘black market,’ which constitutes a challenge and competition to the Syrian market.

“The Iranian forces in Syria have repeatedly exploited the Syrian natural resources for their personal interests, as well as looting economic resources and evading paying taxes to the Syrian state,” it added.

The source said Syria’s move was “part of the negative trend facing the Iranian position in Syria and in the entire region,” as well as a “blow” to the vision of Qassem Soleimani — the previous Quds Force chief who was assassinated by the US almost two years ago — of establishing continuous control from Iran to Lebanon.

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