IRGC Commander Mahmoud Chaharbaqi told Iran state-run TV on January 2, 2021, that Qassem Soleimani’s sole mission in Syria was to “keep Assad in power”.
“The Supreme Leader told Commander (Qassem) Soleimani, go, and keep Bashar al-Assad in power. Commander Soleimani’s mission was not to let Bashar al-Assad’s government fall in Syria. ISIS was not present at the time. The “Mosalahin” who opposed Bashar al-Assad were there. These two must be differentiated and I will tell you the difference between (Assad’s) opposition and ISIS. The “Mosalahin” were the opponents of Assad who had risen to bring Assad down. But ISIS were looking to take over Iraq and Syria and were created later. The first time I saw Haj Qasem in Syria, was in December 2012. I was in Syria for a mission to see what the current conditions were.”
“I was the IRGC Commander of the Artillery Forces at the time. When we entered Damascus, we rested and the next morning, I saw Haj Qasem organizing forces and commanding the operations from a room at the Ruqayya Mosque. At that time, most of Syria was in the hands of the enemy (Syrian opposition). They had even gotten close to Bashar al-Assad’s palace.”