The Arabic-digital news site, Rai-al-Youm, reported this week that Iranian troops have been participating, together with Hezbollah and the Syrian army, in an attempt to drive rebel and jihadi forces from southern Syria, where they dominate a triangle of territory between the Golan Heights, the province of Daraa on the Jordanian border, and the outskirts of Damascus.“This is the first time we have a public operational intervention by IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps] forces in the conflict,” the report said. Several media outlets have reported the presence in the battle area of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the IRGC al-Quds force, which is responsible for operations outside Iran’s borders.
Iran, which has been attempting to build its sphere of influence from Somalia to Afghanistan, has been particularly successful in Syria, where it has become a major prop for President Bashar al-Assad, and in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has become a formidable proxy. Iranian military advisers have been active in both areas for years, but the presence of Iranian troops on the ground–even in small numbers–is little known.
In a recent bulletin, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors media throughout the region, reported that the Iranian military presence in the region has hitherto been in the form of command posts and a limited number of special forces. It notes that according to a plan outlined by a senior IRGC official on an Iranian website last year the command posts are intended to operate “130,000 trained Iranian Basij (a volunteer militia) fighters waiting to enter Syria.” The authors of the MEMRI report, Yigal Carmon and Y. Yehoshua, said the statement was immediately removed from the site after publication.
The presence of Iranian military personnel near the Golan border was revealed last month when an Israeli aircraft, in a targeted strike, interdicted two SUVs apparently reconnoitering the border area from the Syrian side. Twelve were killed in the strike, six of them Hezbollah fighters and six of them Iranian military personnel.
Although Iranian leaders frequently call for Israel’s demise, the authors note that fomenting action against Israel by proxies such as Hezbollah stems from Iranian strategy, not just ideology, since it is believed to create deterrence against an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This presumed deterrence would be reinforced by the creation of another point of conflict on Israel’s Syrian border.
Full article: Israel Threatened by Iranian Ground Forces on Northern Border (Washington Free Beacon)