Western Media outlets have proven to be adept at covering the massive and timely Russian intervention into the multifaceted conflict raging throughout Syria and how it has appeared to be allowed for the reemergence of Al-Qaeda. Turkish Media have heaped praise upon the Turkish military regarding their recent incursion into Efrin as well despite that turning into a quagmire.
There is another party in this conflict which has been allied to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for years and which has constructed its own base roughly 8 km from Damascus and is on an effort to expand its influence throughout the region. That nation is Iran.
From a strategic viewpoint Tehran or more specifically the Islamic Republic Guard Corps (IRGC) has had a very successful two year run at this juncture. It successfully armed Shia militia in neighboring Iraq and assisted the authorities in Baghdad in driving the Islamic State out of several key cities to remote areas along the Syrian border.
It has also cemented even further its ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon. This Shia militia which maintains a major presence in the Lebanese Parliament and has positions in the Lebanese Cabinet gives the Iranians not only eyes into the country but also ensures that its voice cannot be ignored in Beirut either.
Now let’s go back to what is potentially a masterstroke. The apparent importation of Iranian ballistic missiles into Syria. During testimony to the US Senate on Feb 28th General Joseph Votel the head of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) stated that Iran was “increasing” not only in number but also the “quality” of the missiles it has deployed to Syria. There is only one logical reason for such a deployment. That is to keep Israel from striking any perceived threat that will most certainly emerge.
A private entity known as Image Sat International provided a snippet into the improvements the Iranians have made at this facility. According to imagery there are at least two new hangers visible. There is also one key fact to address. If this company has seen these images is there any intelligence service in the World that has not seen them? Another concern is why isn’t there a larger outcry regarding these images?
There is another interesting point as well. The Iranians who are currently manning this facility are members of the Special Operations unit of the IRGC. In February 2018, we heard of an incursion into Israeli Airspace by an Iranian UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). It is safe to assume that we might know the base where the vehicle was launched from. Now under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA – Iran nuclear deal) regarding the Iranian nuclear program guess which entity benefited from the sanctions relief that was and will be provided as long as the benchmarks are still met?
The Trump Administration has been making noise about withdrawing from the JCPOA much to the chagrin of the Europeans and Russia and the apparent indifference of China. Having this site outside Damascus threatens not only Israel but also places other allies such as Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates under threat from a missile attack.
With Prime Minister Netanyahu in the United States (beginning of March) one can only imagine the conversation that occurred in the Oval Office. The Trump Administration may press home the fact that this information proves that Iran has deviated from the terms of the JCPOA in the non-technical sections.
But what punishment has Tehran if any has yet to be seen?