Iran’s indefinite military stay in Syria suggest goal of ‘Red Crescent’
Iran’s top military officer signed agreements in Syria last month that will keep Iranian forces there indefinitely with a pledge to help the Bashar Assad regime rebuild damaged military bases, according to the main opposition group to Tehran’s Islamic rulers.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, who became the armed forces chief of staff last year, was photographed in Aleppo visiting Iranian forces and viewing other conflict areas, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Iran, and intense Russian aerial assaults, played a big role in what critics say was a brutal siege of the city that broke the back of anti-Assad rebel forces in the west.
Behind the scenes, Gen. Bagheri and his staff met three times with Mr. Assad and his high command, the National Council says in an intelligence report.
During Syria’s 6-year-old civil war, Tehran has deployed its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force operatives, as well as surrogate Shiite militias, some from Iraq. Iran justifies its growing — and apparently permanent — presence in Syria by claiming it is fighting the Islamic State and other Sunni terrorist armies.
If the National Council’s report is accurate, then Gen. Bagheri’s agreement signals that Iran is fulfilling a strategic goal of stretching a “Red Crescent” of domination west from Tehran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to Israel’s doorstep.
“The trip was carried out to sign a formal military agreement with Assad dictatorship and to provide a legal and international justification for the presence of the IRGC in Syria and the reconstruction of some of Bashar’s weapons factories by the IRGC inside Syria,” said National Council spokesman Shahin Gobadi.
Asked about the National Council report, a U.S. intelligence official told The Washington Times: “We are aware of Bagheri’s travels, including to Aleppo, but cannot comment on the purpose of his travel. Generally speaking, Iranian investments — in money, influence and lives — to sustain Assad indicate Iran plans to maintain its presence in Syria post-conflict.”
The purported Iran-Syria military agreement runs counter to the U.N. desire to move all foreign forces out of Syria.
The National Council’s intelligence report states:
On orders from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Gen. Bagheri met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his defense minister. They signed an agreement “for the continuation and expansion of the presence of the IRGC in Syria and the creation of a legal and international justification for this presence.”
A second agreement calls for the construction of bases and weapons factories, and the delivery of new arms. (The BBC reported that satellite photos show an Iranian base being built outside the Syrian capital of Damascus.)
A third agreement sets plans for the Assad government to repay Iran for some military costs.