Thursday, June 4, reliable sources in Tehran expected the Iranian government to invoke its 2006 mutual defense pact with Syria “in the coming hours” for the transfer of Iranian troops to Syria – most likely by air. This was reported by debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources. It would be Tehran’s first direct military intervention in the Syria conflict as it goes into its fifth year. Bashar Assad’s regime and the Syrian and Hizballah armies are collapsing under the twin assaults of the Islamic State and the armed Syrian opposition forces and in need of urgent life support.
The possibility of invoking the Iranian-Syrian mutual defense pact for saving the Assad regime was first raised in a debkafile article on May 30.
Tehran was persuaded that, without direct intervention, its ally would go under at any moment Thursday when Islamic State forces broke through Syrian army defenses to the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Hasakeh, which sits on the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish border junction. Towards evening, the Islamists had come to within one kilometer of the strategic town and captured its power station. Its defenders, the Syrian army’s 52nd Division, were falling apart under the ISIS assault; some of the soldiers making a run for it.
Although the town is ruled by a coalition of central government and local Kurds, there was no operational coordination between the Syrian and Kurdish forces defending the town against the common enemy.
If ISIS manages to take Hasakeh, it would chalk up its third major victory in a couple of weeks after capturing Palmyra in Syria and the Iraqi town of Ramadi. Its fall would provide the Islamists with an open route across northern Syria to northern Iraq and strengthen their grip on Mosul, their Iraqi capital.
It would also count as a major setback for the United States, whose air strikes in support of Hasakeh’s Kurdish defenders failed to stall the Islamist advance.
In the southern sector too, Syrian troops of the 68th and 13th divisions defending Deraa are reported to have laid down arms and fled under the massive onslaught of the opposition Army of Conquest coalition.
Tehran’s final decision about sending a substantial Iranian force to Syria is awaited in the coming hours. This intention was strongly intimated in the last 48 hours by Adm. Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s National Security Council, and Gen. Qassem Soleimani, supreme commander of Iran’s Middle East operations. Both announced that dramatic events for Syria are to be expected in the coming days.