Iran’s in­def­i­nite mil­i­tary stay in Syria sug­gest goal of ‘Red Cres­cent’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.