Esmail Ghaani
Esmail GhaaniReuters

The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, has visited Syria to oversee a joint military drill, AFP reported on Friday, citing media outlets in the Islamic Republic.

Ghaani met senior Syrian officials in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported, adding they held discussions on ways to "confront the military and security challenges facing Syria" and supervised a joint Iran-Syria military exercise.

Ghaani also praised Syria and Iran's "brotherly relations" said Iran "will stand by the Syrian people and leadership in facing its challenges", the news agency added.

While Iranian leaders deny that the Islamic Republic has a military presence in Syria, Iran is a key supporter of the Assad regime in Syria, having providing the regime with both financial aid and military advisers against a range of opposing forces since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Near the start of the Syrian civil war, it was reported that then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made clear several years ago that Iran would withdraw its “military advisers” from Syria and Iraq only if their governments wanted it to.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi visited Damascus earlier this year and headed a "high economic-political delegation".

Ghaani was named in 2020 as head of the Quds Force, replacing Qassem Soleimani, who was eliminated in a US drone strike outside of Baghdad’s airport in Iraq.

The Quds Force is the foreign operations arm of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and is on the US list of "foreign terrorist organizations".

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)