Consideration to geostrategic pulse 236 - Iran improves its military capabilities for foreign intervention

Iran improves its military capabilities for foreign intervention
Corneliu PIVARIU

Iran’s participation to the Syrian conflict evolved in time and its tracking leads to the conclusion that important transformations took place in Tehran leadership’s manner  of conceiving and carrying out extended military operations abroad.

Damascus - Tehran relations have a recent history of constant evolution even from the time of Iran-Iraqi conflict (1980 - 1988), when Tehran needed the Syrian regime’s support in various fields and the former compensated those needs by different steps agreed upon mutually (including delivery of 1 m. tons of crude oil yearly free of charge to Syria) and other measures as well that contributed gradually to strengthening the relations between the regimes leading the two countries.

The breakout of the civil war in Syria persuaded Iran to adopt gradually more and more important measures to help its ally – i.e. Bashar al-Assad’s regime survival as it would be profoundly wrong to speak of an assistance granted to the entire country. If until 2011 the military cooperation between the two countries was carried out predominantly through classical known forms with a special attention granted to the intelligence services as well as to assisting the Lebanese Hezbollah, during the last two years, as a result of field developments, of the emergence of Daesh and Bashar Al-Assad’s regime difficulties in staying in power, Iran found its way around to training  part of its armed forces  in order to carry out military operations in Syria by rotation in support of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and the most recent and important such operation was the campaign for regaining Aleppo city. Until April 2016, the number of Iranian military deployed in Syria was estimated at a little more than 9,000 , and suplementary troops of the Iranian special forces started being dislodged after that including troops of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), troops of Quds Force, Basij units (having initially exclusive missions internally) and even Artesh troops (military forces for defending the borders). The capabilities of the Iranian intelligence services improved in the field of collecting information on the rebels and on other formations opposed to Assad’s regime, inclusively using UAVs. The forces predominantly led by Iran carry out operations particularly in Aleppo, Idlib, Lattakia, Hama, Homs and Tartous regions under the command of local officers appointed directly by General Mohamad Ali Jafari (the IRGC’s commander). It has been extimated that in April, 2017, Iran commanded in Syria around 30,000 combat troops, a third of them Iranians, around 8,000 Hezbollah fighters, 5,000 Iraqi Shiites and up to 4,000 Afghan Shiites. The losses incured by the Iranian troops and its allies are estimated at more than 1,000 military (almost 400 Iranians, including 6 Generals).

The total Iranian expenditures for supporting Assad’s government are estimated at more than 15 bill. dollars by the end of 2013 and, since 2014, the direct expenditures for supporting Assad’s regime amounted to 6 bill. dolars and 9 bill. dollars for the Iranian troops and their Iraqi and Afghan allies.

Iran proved therefore its capacity of deploying important military troops at a distance from the national territory, of supplying them and commanding conflicts of high intensity. Moreover, Tehran delivered infantry and other cathegories of weapons, ammunition included, for the Syrian army and for Hezbollah.

The Iranian Commandment in Syria is located in Zabadani, a mountaineous little town close to the Lebanese border and at around 50 km of Damascus, a strategic location very convenient to Iran which was chosen since the time IRGC – Pasdaran were training Hezbollah troops in a camp close to the springs of Barada River.

Iran’s military evolution in Syria represents an important strategic decision of the Iranian political and military leadership towards a more offensive attitude in the region. By developing the model of waging a hybrid war in Syria, Tehran will strengthen its capacity of projecting its forces in the Middle East in a much more complex manner. Syria is a particularly important country for the Iranian Regime’s political and military plans in the Middle East and losing it would mean a major failure of the Islamic Republic’s military and foreing affairs policies. That is why Iran’s main objective is mintaining Syria’s territorial integrity and Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in power. Therefore, we think Tehran will further seek developping the capabilities of its conventional forces together with other components, taking into account the lessons taught on the ground in Syria, in order to further act in the Middle East. The balance of forces in the region will be affected by this Iranian decision and the Iranian influence in Syria remains particularly large.

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back Published in 2017-05-05 Print Download up