Iran seeks to turn Syria into its largest foreign military base by establishing military bases across the country and supporting militias, an article published in Alwatan Arab daily alleged. According to the report, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has a headquarters, called the “Glass House” inside the Damascus International Airport, from where the IRGC manages the logistics and supplies to its militia proxies across the country. The article adds that the IRGC also has a military base in the northwestern governorate of Aleppo, where it trains and equips Lebanese and Iraqi fighters. Another IRGC base is located in Quneitra Governorate, the report claims, adding that Iran has resettled families of militia fighters from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan near the base. There are also Iranian military barracks in the Syrian Badia region, which houses hundreds of Iraqi militia forces. According to the article, Iran seeks to control Syria’s border with Israel.

Comment: Iran’s growing military presence in Syria, particularly in southwestern regions close to the borders with Jordan and Israel, has been a matter of concern for Israel and the United States. Although ISIS has been militarily defeated in Syria and Iraq, the IRGC and its regional proxy forces have made it clear that they are not leaving Syria anytime soon. Iran and Hezbollah have also been establishing military bases inside Syria, which at times have prompted Israel to target them with air strikes. But Israel’s air supremacy was challenged last weekend when the Syrian military shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet. Israel said its air force destroyed the command-and-control center of the Iranian-led drone operation center near Palmyra. Iran denied it.

The latest cross-border clashes raised concern in the region and internationally that the Syrian conflict may turn into a broader regional conflict with the risk of direct confrontation between Israel and Iran. Iranian-backed Iraqi militia forces have warned that they will join Hezbollah to fight Israel now that ISIS has collapsed.