A Russian army pilot leaving the cockpit of a Russian Sukhoi SU-25 ground attack aircraft at the Hmeimim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia, October 3, 2015. AFP/KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA/ ALEXANDER KOTS
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At a meeting in Moscow in July, a top Iranian general unfurled a map of Syria to explain to his Russian hosts how a series of defeats for President Bashar Assad could be turned into victory – with Russia's help.Major Gen. Qasem Soleimani's visit to Moscow was the first step in planning for a Russian military intervention that has reshaped the Syrian war and forged a new Iranian-Russian alliance in support of Assad. Three senior officials in the region say Soleimani's July trip was preceded by high-level Russian-Iranian contacts that produced political agreement on the need to pump in new support for Assad as his losses accelerated.Around 3,000 fighters from the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah have also mobilized for the battle, along with Syrian army troops, said one of the senior regional sources.The military intervention in Syria is set out in an agreement between Moscow and Tehran that says Russian airstrikes will support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, said one of the senior regional sources.
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