Homeland Security

Iran’s Secret War in Syria

Since the signing of the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015—now, it turns out, with major secret exemptions for Iran—Iran’s brazenness has only grown. The Obama administration, in its ongoing efforts to coddle and appease, has gone so far as to offer to buy Iran’s heavy water and sell Iran Boeings.

But the reason appeasement doesn’t work is that Iran harbors an intense enmity toward the West and particularly its (still) reigning superpower, America, which it wants to destroy. Anyone still not convinced of that should watch this propaganda video of young Iranians sinking American aircraft carriers.

Lately, with the lame-duck President Obama headed for the finish line as he tightly clutches his “legacy”—the nuclear deal—Iran has further stepped up the brazenness. It has harassed U.S. ships in international waters of the Persian Gulf, forcing one of them to fire warning shots. It has deployed the Russian-made S-300 missile-defense system—one of the most advanced in the world—at its Fordo uranium-enrichment site. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an address to Defense Ministry staff in Tehran, has said Iran must continue its offensive military buildup and “avoid negotiating with the U.S., [as] experience has proven that instead of understanding, the Americans are seeking to impose their will in negotiations.”

The Obama administration, for which the nuclear deal plays a role like the speed of light in Einsteinian relativity—an absolute, immutable principle—reacts to all this solely by expressing “concern.”

A major exposé in the Daily Mail now reveals that, for years, Iran’s military involvement in Syria has been much more extensive and dangerous than many believed.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, has passed information to MailOnline that was apparently leaked by senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Among other things, the activists say Iran now commands about 60,000 Shiite troops in Syria—vastly more than the 16,000 that Western analysts had estimated.

The NCRI, which in 2002 exposed Iran’s then-secret nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak, also says Iran operates a major headquarters near Damascus airport, nicknamed the Glasshouse. About a thousand people work there including Iran’s feared intelligence agencies, and there is also a basement for holding millions of dollars in cash.

The NCRI claims that the total amount Iran has spent on the Syrian war comes to an astounding $100 billion, much of it during years when Tehran was complaining loudly about the ravages of economic sanctions. Western analysts had gauged the sum at only $15 billion.

Most ominously, the activists say Iran is

putting down military roots in 18 locations from northern to southern Syria…, showing how it intends to control large swathes of the country even if Assad is defeated.

Iranian military planners…are said to have divided Syria into “five fronts,” comprising the Northern Front, Eastern Front, Southern Front, Central Command Front and Coastal Front, the NCRI claims.

Revolutionary Guard bases have been established in each of the sectors, which the NCRI says can accommodate up to 6,000 troops, as well as heavy weapons, air power and anti-aircraft missiles.

A situation where, even if the Assad regime falls, Iran would retain effective military control of the country, bristling with offensive and defensive capabilities, would be—as a security source told the Daily Mail—“exactly what many of the region are afraid of. It’s their biggest nightmare.”

All this does not mean Iran is having an easy time in Syria. Of the 60,000-strong Shiite force it is apparently deploying there, only about one-fourth seem to be Iranians. The rest are Shiite mercenaries from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Lebanon (in addition to about 10,000 Hizballah troops with a separate command structure).

One reason there are relatively few Iranians is “growing levels of public unease in Iran at the level of casualties sustained.” As historian Michael Burleigh comments, “[T]he Iranian public has had a bellyful of costly wars, with hundreds of thousands of dead from the 1980-88 war against Iraq.”

Throughout his tenure, however, President Obama has passed up opportunities—starting, most egregiously, with the 2009 Green Revolution that he adamantly refused to support—to leverage domestic discontent to put pressure on Tehran. Even his grudging imposition of sanctions led eventually to the nuclear deal—according to which Iran pockets concessions and cash, at most postpones some aspects of its nuclear development, and continues building a military dominion that could become Obama’s true “legacy,” namely, a 21st-century nightmare fostering conflict on a much more massive scale than what we already see.