Iran this week sent its first ground troops to Syria, around 1,000 marines and elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). They moved straight into Ghorin, a small military air facility just south of the port town of Latakia, and hooked up with the just-landed Russian marines at Jablah. Three weeks ago, DEBKA file began reporting on Russian-Iranian military intervention afoot for saving the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, followed on September 1 by the first disclosure of the Russian buildup in Syria.
Our military sources report now that Moscow is about to send a shipment of advanced S-300 air defense missile systems for deployment at Jablah, the base the Russians have built outside Latakia for the intake of the Russian troops. The S-300 systems will also shield the Iranian facility at Ghorin.
Jablah has been converted into a busy depot for the Russian troops still arriving in Syria, combatants from units of Marine Brigades 810 and 336.
Russian MiG-31 interceptor craft standing by at the Mezza airbase at Damascus airport offer the combined Russian-Iranian force air cover. To the west, the giant Dmitri Donskoy TK-20 nuclear submarine is on its way to Syrian waters. Latakia is therefore fast growing into a powerful Russian-Iranian military enclave, able to accommodate Assad and top regime officials if they are forced to leave Damascus.
According to our military sources, it is too soon to determine the exact function of this enclave, whether defensive or, after settling in, the Russian and/or the Iranian forces are planning to go after Syrian rebel and Islamic State forces making gains in northern Syria.
There is no evidence to bear out the curious briefing high-ranking defense sources gave Israeli military correspondents Thursday that the incoming Iranian troops have come to beef up the large-scale Syrian army-Hizballah units, who have been unsuccessfully battering away at the rebel fighters holding the key town of Zabadani for nearly two months. Our sources find the Iranian and Russian units fully occupied for now in expanding and outfitting their new quarters at Ghorin and Jablah.