NEW YORK — The reported deaths of four Iranian “military advisers” killed in an airstrike in Syria spotlight Tehran’s meddling in Syria in a clear attempt to extend its fundamentalist tentacles to Israel’s north and exert hegemony across the region.
The strikes targeting the T-4 airbase outside Palmyra in central Syria have been widely attributed to Israel, with U.S. officials confirming the Jewish state carried out the hits and informed Washington in advance. Tellingly, Kremlin officials protested that they were not forewarned about the strikes. According to some reports, Russia has a presence at the T-4 base.
Israel has a longstanding policy of refusing to comment on alleged military actions beyond the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Still, Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused the Bashar al-Assad regime of committing “crimes against humanity” with a deadly chemical weapons attack on rebel-held Douma over the weekend.
It is instructive to focus on the presence of the four Iranian “military advisers” that Tehran confirmed were killed in the bombing raid. The Iranian death toll may actually be higher. Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified the majority of the reported 14 casualties as either Iranians or fighters from local militias backed by Iran.
Media affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard identified the four dead “advisers” as Mehdi Dehghan, Seyyed Ammar Mousavi, Akbar Javar-Jannati and Mehdi Lotfi-Niasar. Dehghan was reportedly a colonel. He was initially reportedly described as being involved in the drone division of Iran’s military, but Iran state-run media removed those references.
Underscoring the sensitivities of the players involved, the Washington Post, citing Iran’s Fars News Agency, reported that aside from Iranians, the T-4 base also houses Russians and members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group.
It is unclear what was happening at the T-4 air base and why the site was chosen as a target. Israel in the past reportedly carried out bombing raids of military sites used to store or produce rockets and missiles.
Iran and Russia are allies of Assad, with Iran evidencing some control over Syrian military installations. Russia, the Iranian military and Hezbollah members each have been aiding Assad’s fight against the rebels in various capacities.
In February, following strategic victories over the Islamic State and Turkey-backed rebels inside Syria, Iran was brazen enough to send an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into Israeli territory before it was quickly shot down by the Israeli military. Aviation analysts described the Iranian drone as a new stealthy model similar in design to the American RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone that Iran claimed to have shot down and seized in December 2011. It’s likely the Iranians were testing the model’s ability to penetrate Israeli airspace undetected, making Israel’s discovery of the UAV a remarkable display of regional military superiority.
Iran already exerts major influence over Lebanon and has maintained a fluctuating but always present strategic relationship with Hamas and the other jihadist actors in the Palestinian terror arena. Iran-backed militias routinely operate in Syrian communities near Israel’s Golan Heights. In allegedly striking an Iran-linked target in Syria, Israel may be sending a message to the Iranians and to the international community that it will not stand idly by as Iran consolidates power in Syria with Assad’s recent victories over the rebels.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.