Iran in Syria: twofold role / News / News agency Inforos
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Iran in Syria: twofold role

Russia is boosting its military presence in the Syrian Deir ez-Zor Governorate

Iran in Syria: twofold role

According to the Syrian Deir ez-Zor 24 radio station, July 3 witnessed three columns with about 100 units of Russian military equipment entering the administrative center of the same-name province. Local observers say the Russian command was forced to undertake this to ease confrontation between government troops and Moscow-loyal units of the Palestinian Liwa al-Quds with the Shiite "military security" units subordinate to Iran's IRGC.

Last week, an armed clash between the Palestinians and pro-Iranian militants took place on the outskirts of the border city of Al-Bukamal (Abu Kamal), which killed four of the latter.

As of today, the command of Iran's IRGC keeps a tight rein on the city, its entry and exit roads, as well as the border checkpoint. Earlier, the Iranians forced units of the Syrian government army's 11th division and the Palestinian Liwa al-Quds out of the city at gunpoint, forbidding them entry and roadblock set-up.

In early 2019, the Iranians started construction of a large Imam Ali military complex a few kilometers away from the city, which provides for the placement of several thousand soldiers and the training of militants. As of early July 2020, the facility is almost complete: a checkpoint has been created at the border with Iraq, 15 residential and educational buildings have been built, as well as a shooting range, a network of armored warehouses and technical facilities for storing various-purpose missiles.

Combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles of Israel and the United States repeatedly strike this and other military facilities of Iran and Syria, despite counter efforts by the Syrian air defense. For instance, Israel launched four rocket attacks targeting that country's territory in June 2020 alone. Some 30 Syrian soldiers were killed.

In his recent speech before leaders of the government's power bloc, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a hostile statement to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "I warn Assad about the dangerous consequences Syria and its military faces in case of strengthening the military presence of Iran, transferring high-tech weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah and transporting them to Lebanon. From now on, we will strike targets regardless of the Syrian government army soldiers' presence," Netanyahu said.

To be perfectly frank, moves by the IRGC command in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate make sense: the Iranians are trying to prevent unauthorized people from entering the military area under their control. It is no secret that the Syrian government army and Palestinian formations are caught in the Israeli agent web aimed to obtain information about steps by the IRGC and the Lebanese Hezbollah: these structures are still totally inaccessible to them.

On the other hand, Iran's growing military and political influence on a certain part of the Syrian leadership causes a perfectly reasonable apprehension with Russia: the Iranians and their subordinate militia groups have virtually abandoned allied cooperation in the fight against armed rebels in north-western Syria.

In the south, especially on the edges of the Daraa Governorate's administrative border, Shiite militants constantly terrorize the population, local authorities, police and soldiers of the 5th division covered by the Republican guard's 4th armored division's command in violation of agreements stipulating their presence. Russia has repeatedly demanded that Iran strictly observe terms of the agreement to withdraw pro-Iranian militias at least 80 km away from the borders of the Deraa, Quneitra and As-Suwayda governorates.

A similar situation is observed 17 km south of Damascus (outside the city of Al-Kiswah), where the Iranians have created a military installation equipped with rocket launch sites and storage facilities.

In 2018, Damascus signed an agreement to transfer Latakia seaport's infrastructure facilities to Iranian companies in repayment of financial debts. Allegedly, the agreement is supplemented by a secret protocol providing for the possible use of the port for the benefit of the Iranian navy.

Since the civil war onset, Iran has been providing comprehensive assistance to Syria, first sending military specialists, weapons and supplies (2011), and then IRGC soldiers to the country. That being said, the Iranians have failed to turn the tide in favor of the Syrian government, and only Russian assistance has ensured success in the national army's actions.

The Iranian leadership has contributed greatly to strengthen the Syrian government's dependence on Tehran. During the nine years of conflict in Syria's highest echelons (including security, defense and law enforcement agencies), the Iranians have formed a strong lobby, contributed to the prosperity of corruption corroding the whip hand and causing increscent lack of trust in Bashar al-Assad and resentment among the Syrian society.

Washington also "rocks the Syrian boat" by strengthening multifaceted sanctions allegedly against the regime, which directly affect the economy and further reduce people's material prosperity level. The Iranian leadership exploits this situation to undermine Russia's influence, imposing a dangerous political agenda on Syria and prompting cooler relations between Damascus and Moscow.

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