Murder of Iranian in Syria May Be Opposition 'Message' to Damascus

A former senior figure in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, General Khalil Sultan al-Abed, was murdered in Damascus last week near his home in the Al-Mazeh neighborhood.

According to reports by the Al-Ahwaz Arab People's Democratic Front - an opposition group operating in the predominantly Arab province of Khuzestan in Iran - Sultan, who was shot to death by unknown assailants, had lived for the past 10 years in Damascus. He served as the official representative of the Iran Khodro automobile company, and was 25 percent owner in Samand, a company set up by Iran in Damascus.

The reports also describe the role that Sultan played because of the contacts he had Hezbollah, and his apparent connection with the supply of vehicles to that organization. Moreover, he was one of Iran's diplomatic personnel in Syria, and continued to serve as a representative there of the Revolutionary Guard, who own Khodro.

According to the reports, Sultan headed a special Iranian committee that served as the military link between Iran and Syria. He was also a close friend of another senior Revolutionary Guards figure, Sayyed Reza Baba Hussein, who recently fled Iran.

Official Syrian sources chose not to report the murder of Sultan, and only yesterday was news of his scheduled funeral, today in Deir al-Zur, released.

According to the Democratic Front organization, Sultan was responsible, among other tasks, for the abduction and torture of activists in Ahwaz, who had fled to Syria and were extradited back to Iran. Other opposition groups in Iran include the Sunni Jundallah, which carried out a large attack in Iran's Baluchistan province, causing many casualties. There is also Kurdish and Azeri opposition factions in northern Iran.

These groups appear to serve as agents for Pakistani intelligence that is operating in Iranian territory.

According to reports from the Syrian opposition, there is a campaign being waged by Sunnis against growing Shi'ite influence in particular, and against Iran's influence in Syria, in general. The claim is that Sultan's murder is part of a campaign of revenge and also a warning directed against the Syrian regime to cease encouraging what is perceived to be the spread of Shi'ism in the country.

The same sources blame the government policies for leading to the acceptance of Shi'ism by thousands of Sunni Syrians, in return for economic benefits and assistance.

The same Sunni sources are angry that the government of Syria is allowing Iran and its proxies to take over certain elements in the country's economy, like a factory partly owned by the Revolutionary Guards.

The murder of Sultan, the sources said, "is a message to some of the Syrians who sold their souls and their beliefs to the Iranian regime, and also a message to the regime from the Syrian people, which cannot watch the Iranians take control of the essential foundations of Syria, help the spread of Shi'ism and take away various sites from the control of Syrian authorities."