TEL AVIV — Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Iran
deployed 50,000 troops in Syria.
Israeli military intelligence commander Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Iran
has taken over much of the Syrian campaign against Sunni rebels. Kochavi
said Iran deployed Hizbullah and Shi’ite fighters in Iraq to protect the
regime of President Bashar Assad, whose military dropped from 220,000 to
Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
“The damages of the imminent fall of Syria are very high for both Iran
and Hizbullah,” Kochavi said. “Iran is losing a sole ally in the region
surrounding Israel. It will lose the ability to transfer weaponry through
Syria to Hizbullah. Iran and Hizbullah are both doing all in their power to
assist Assad’s regime.”
In an address to the Herzliya Conference on March 14, Kochavi cited a
much greater level of Iranian military involvement than acknowledged by
NATO. The military intelligence chief said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps and Hizbullah formed a special force assigned to protect the
regime in Damascus.
“They support Assad operationally on the ground, with strategic
consultation, intelligence, weapons,” Kochavi said.
Kochavi said the 50,000-man force built by Hizbullah and Iran was
separate from that of Assad’s military. He said the Iranian-sponsored force,
called the “People’s Army” would soon reach 100,000 fighters amid repeated
failures by Assad to mobilize Syrians. So far, only 20 percent of required
recruits have reported for Syrian military duty.
The People’s Army was said to have been launched in late 2012 and
overseen by IRGC Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani. Officials
said Suleimani has been in Damascus for the last few months to direct
Kochavi said the People’s Army represented Iran’s determination to
remain in Syria even with the fall of the Assad regime. He said neither Iran
nor Hizbullah could lose Syria as a strategic hub.
“Most recently, they are establishing a ‘People’s Army’ trained by
Hizbullah and financed by Iran, currently consisting of 50,000 men, with
plans to increase to 100,000,” Kochavi said. “Iran and Hizbullah are also
preparing for the day after Assad’s fall, when they will use this army to
protect their assets and interests in Syria.”
At the same time, the Syrian Air Force has also expanded operations.
Kochavi said the air force was conducting between 40 and 50 sorties a week
and other units were firing the Scud-B and M-600 missiles.
The Assad regime has also fired at least 600 rockets with a conventional
payload of 250 kilograms. Kochavi said Assad fired 70 Scuds and M-600s
during the two-year revolt.
The intelligence assessment also detected threats by Al Qaida-aligned
Syrian rebel militias. Kochavi such militias, which he termed “global jihad
terrorists” were spreading throughout Syria as well as Egypt’s Sinai
“The threat of a security deterioration, caused either by us attacking,
or a terrorist attack on us is growing,” Kochavi said.
Ship carrying Iran weapons for Assad regime en route to Syria: opposition source
Vessel heading to Turkey is suspected to make a stop at Syrian port to unload Iranian weapons. (AFP)
A ship raising a Tanzanian flag and carrying Iranian arms cargo is expected to cross the Suez Canal within six hours, an opposition source told Al Arabiya Saturday.
‘The ship is said to be carrying 8,500 tons of weapons and ground missiles from Iran to be given to the Syrian regime,’ the source said, adding: ‘It is scheduled to make a ‘fuel stop’ at a Syrian port where it will unload its cargo.’
The source also said that the vessel is owned by Syrians, although he did not specify to whom he was referring. He, however, said that the boat was registered in Lebanon and had links to the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
There have been various media reports that the Islamic republic has been militarily helping the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which — according to the U.N. — has killed more than 70,000 people in the two years since the uprising began.
A Western official told Reuters earlier this month that Iranian weapons continue to pour into Syria from Iraq as well as other routes, including Turkey and Lebanon, which violates the U.N. arms embargo on Iran. Iraqi and Turkish officials denied the allegations.
The source also told Reuters that Iran’s acceleration of support for Assad suggests the Syrian war is entering a new phase in which Iran may be trying to end the battlefield stalemate by redoubling its commitment to Assad and offering Syria’s increasingly isolated government a crucial lifeline.
It also highlights the growing sectarian nature of the conflict, diplomats say, with Iranian arms flowing to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. That group is increasingly active on the ground in Syria in support of Assad’s forces.
Illustrative photo of an Iranian cargo ship in Malta last year
Arms treaty blocked by Iran, North Korea and Syria
Iran, North Korea and Syria have blocked what would have been the first treaty to regulate the $70bn (£46bn) global trade in conventional arms.
The draft would require states to ensure that conventional weapons are not transferred across borders if they are to be used in human rights abuses.
Supporters were hoping to secure the backing of all 193 UN member states.
They are now expected to take the draft to the UN General Assembly, where it will likely pass by a large majority.
“This is not a failure, today is success deferred and deferred by not very long,” said the chief UK negotiator, Jo Adamson, who called the draft a “good, strong treaty”.
Diplomats have worked for nearly a decade to agree on a set of principles to stop the unchecked flow of arms, and the BBC’s Nada Tawfik reports from New York that on Thursday many believed the treaty was close to achieving consensus.
The treaty would prohibit states from exporting conventional weapons in violation of arms embargoes, or weapons that would be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism.