Iran has trained an army of 50,000 men in Syria in an effort to retain a power base in the country once President Bashar Assad’s regime collapses, the head of Israel’s military intelligence has claimed.
Major General Aviv Kochavi said Tehran had provided the funds for the army which had then been trained by Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group which is a close ally of the Islamic regime. It planned to expand the force to 100,000 men, he said.
Speaking at the annual Inter-Disciplinary Conference in Herzliya, Maj Gen Kochavi said Iran and Hizbollah had supported Mr Assad in the two-year civil war that has cost an estimated 70,000 because they were fearful of losing a strategic ally. But they were developing contingency plans for the day when he would fall from power.
Iranian officials have previously acknowledged the presence of forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria as advisers but have denied intervening in the conflict.
Maj Gen Kochavi also said Mr Assad was preparing to use Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, which Israel fears could fall into the hands of Jihadist fighters or Hizballah in the event of his regime crumbling.
“Assad continues to assert his control of Syria’s chemical weapons, air force, and military hardware,” he said.
“[He] is making advance preparations to use chemical weapons. He did not give the order yet, but is preparing for it.”
Full article: Iran has force of 50,000 in Syria, claims Israel (The Telegraph)