Strong pledges not to let Iran establish a military presence in Syria have come from US President Donald Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Israel.. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman again warned that Israel would not permit Iran to establish a military presence in Syria. he spoke after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had repeatedly stated that Israel reserved its freedom of military action in Syria to defend its borders.
The Saudi prince, who orchestrated Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri’s flight to loosen Iran’s hold on Beirut, has summoned a conference of Syrian opposition leaders for Nov. 28, to create a powerful new bloc against Bashar Assad and his Iranian sponsors.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 14, US Defense Secretary James Mattis made no bones about Washington’s intent: “One key aim for Washington in Syria is to limit Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq, which expanded during the war with Islamic State,” he said.
But the US can expect no help in this from Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Tuesday strongly denied reports that Moscow was committed to ensuring the removal of Iran-backed militias from the country. He argued that their presence there was “legitimate.”
So what exactly are they all talking about? How broad and how deep is Iran’s grip on Syria? What are the facts? And why have they never been published until now?
DEBKA Weekly, following extensive research and investigation by its intelligence and military sources, is revealing for the first time here how Iran has disposed its military forces in Syria. In the face of all the warnings, the high commands of the Iranian army and Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), were quietly building a formidable military machine in one corner of Syria after another. (See the attached map for details.)
It is organized into five regional military sectors – each with its own autonomous regional command, which is connected to the General Staff Headquarters Iran has established in Damascus.
The Northern Command is based in Aleppo; the Southern Command at Izra north of Daraa; the Eastern Command at the Al-Dumayr air field east of Damascus; and the Coastal Command at Camp Talae’ on the Mediterranean coast, between the ports of Latakia and Tartus.
These five commands govern 13 Iranian military bases which we can list as follows:
- The Mayer City Base outside the small northern Syrian town of Nubi, northwest of Aleppo on the Turkish border. It is reserved exclusively for Revolutionary Guards personnel.
- The Aleppo Operational Command base.
- The 47th Brigade Division base east of Hama.
- The Syrian Shariat Air Base south of Homs, through which Iran maintains air links with its forces in Syria. It is defended by three IRGC battalions. (This base was targeted for attack last March by US Tomahawk cruise missiles.)
- Camp Talae’ between Latakia and Tartus on the Mediterranean coast.
- A second Syrian air base T4 Tiyas controlled by Iran, which is located between Homs and Palmyra and shared with Syrian and Russian air force units.
- The Shibani-Imam Hossein Garrison west of Damascus.
- The Al-Dumayr Air Base, Iran’s third air facility in Syria, which is located east of Damascus.
- A four-storey building at Damascus Airport, known as the Glasshouse, houses Iran’s General Staff HQ in Syria.
- The Yarmouk base southwest of Damascus.
- The Zenab Garrison south of Damascus
- The Izra base in the southern province of Daraa.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources have also counted around 75,000 military servicemen stationed in those bases, composed of the following groups (in estimated round numbers):
10,000 IRGC officers and troops.
7,500 regular army officers and troops.
20,000 members of Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias.
15,000 Afghan Shiite militiamen.
11,500 Pakistani Shiite militiamen.
11,000 Lebanese Hizballah fighters.
The presumption that a mere decision, even one taken jointly by the US and Russia, has the power to remove an army organized in this broad network of bases is no more than a pipe dream.