State-sponsor of terrorism Iran is reportedly establishing a permanent military presence inside Syria that will allow the Shiite Islamic Republic to operate close to Israel, according to a Western official.
An unnamed Western intelligence source told the BBC that Iran is constructing a permanent military base in Syria about 31 miles from the country’s Golan Heights territory that lies along the 47-mile-long border shared by Israel and Syria.
Referring to the permanent base, the BBC reveals that it is part of a “compound at a site used by the Syrian army outside El-Kiswah, 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus.”
Reuters further reveals that Iran-affiliated forces in Syria may soon be allowed to operate as close as three miles from the Israeli border as part of a ceasefire agreement between the United States, Russia, and Jordan that is opposed by Israel.
BBC reports, “The presence of Iranian forces in Syria has been reported for some time, but the claim of a potentially more permanent Iranian base raises the possibility of military action by Israel which has repeatedly warned it will not tolerate such a development.”
“As ISIS [Islamic State] moves out, Iran moves in,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter Sunday, adding, ”Iran wants to establish itself militarily in Syria, right next to Israel. Israel will not let that happen.”
As ISIS moves out, Iran moves in. Iran wants to establish itself militarily in Syria, right next to Israel. Israel will not let that happen. pic.twitter.com/t1EeU2etAP
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) November 5, 2017
Citing satellite images of Iran’s base, BBC reports that the allegedly permanent facility would likely house up to 500 soldiers and vehicles, adding:
Satellite images commissioned by the BBC seem to show construction activity at the site referenced by the intelligence source between January and October this year.
The images shows a series of two dozen large low-rise buildings – likely for housing soldiers and vehicles. In recent months, additional buildings have been added to the site. However, it is impossible to independently verify the purpose of the site and the presence of the Iranian military.
Asked if Israel is willing to use military force to stop Iran’s military from permanently setting up camp in Syria, the Israeli PM told BBC, “You know, the more we’re prepared to stop it, the less likely we’ll have to resort to much greater things. There is a principle I very much adhere to, which is to nip bad things in the bud.”
The Israeli military has already bombed targets in Syria claimed to be affiliated with Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
BBC’s revelation about Tehran’s ambitions in Syria suggests that the tens of thousands of Iran-allied troops already deployed to Syria to join forces loyal to Russian-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad are not planning to go anywhere anytime soon, to the dismay of the U.S. and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are regional enemies.
Iran already has a substantial military footprint in Syria made up of Hezbollah fighters and forces from the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as hired troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan who are sometimes forced to fight.
Iranian-backed troops have been fighting against the Syrian opposition, which includes the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), other jihadist groups, and Western-backed rebel fighters, among other groups.
Assistance from Iran and Russia helped turn the tide of the Syrian war in favor of the Assad regime.
Now that ISIS’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria is on its last legs, the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia are beginning to question what comes next, particularly as it pertains to the Islamic Republic’s operations in Iraq and Syria.
Iran has significantly expanded its influence and power during the anti-ISIS war, capturing strategic territory to make its long-cherished goal of securing a “Shiite crescent” sphere of influence a reality.
The “Shiite crescent” is a single land route that binds together territory held by several Islamic Republic allies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Iranian-controlled government of Iraq.
“For the first time since the Syrian civil war began, Iranian-backed militias appear to have secured a road link from the Iranian border all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast,” noted the New Yorker in June. “The new land route will allow the Iranian regime to resupply its allies in Syria by land instead of air, which is both easier and cheaper.”
“The Iranians have sought to create such a sphere since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, in 1988, which they saw as a Western-backed effort to destroy their regime,” it later adds.