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IRAN PROVIDES SYRIA WITH WEAPONS FOR THE LAST SEVEN WEEKS DISGUISED AS EARTHQUAKE RELIEF

Region of Concern: Iran; Syria

Written By Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg; Edited by Amy McGee and Salomon Montaguth

Date: April 12, 2023


Map over Syria and Iran[1]


Event: Iran deployed hundreds of flights containing weapons and military equipment disguised as earthquake relief to Syria over the last seven weeks after the earthquake in Northern Syria and Turkey on February 6. The information comes from nine Syrian, Iranian, Israeli, and Western sources, which include a Syrian military defector, a serving Syrian officer, and sources close to the Iranian leadership. Israeli intelligence received information about this and has been carrying out airstrikes on several occasions in Syria.[2] Airstrikes hit Aleppo International Airport on March 7 and March 22,[3] and several Syrian army positions on March 30. Israel has not confirmed these attacks.[4] Iran-backed militant groups have also targeted US military bases in Syria several times last month.[5] According to the sources, the weapons shipment aimed to strengthen Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and improve Iran’s and pro-Iranian groups’ defense against Israel in Syria.[6]


Significance: These shipments show that the already strong Syrian-Iranian relationship likely will continue to grow, further strengthening a global coalition between nations that are hostile towards the US and its allies. The increase in weapons purchases by Syria strengthens weapons manufacturing in Iran, which will likely send more Iranian weapons to other areas, like Russia and Myanmar. The Syrian military will likely use the weapons sent from Iran to attack civilians in rebel-controlled areas in the northwest. Increased violence in this region will likely also lead to decreased access to food, water, and medical supplies since humanitarian organizations have restricted access to the area. An increase in violence against the Syrian opposition, who are engaged in the fight against ISIS, will very likely lead to a possibility for ISIS to expand. ISIS will likely come across more weapons as the instability in the country makes it difficult to control weapons depots and warehouses. The pro-Iranian groups operating in Syria will also likely use these weapons to attack military bases controlled by the US and its allies. Israel will likely increase their attacks against areas controlled by the Syrian government and pro-Iranian groups, leading to retaliatory strikes from Syria into Israel.


Recommendations: Mossad and US intelligence agencies should increase their intelligence gathering to uncover weapons shipments between Iran and Syria and stop potential attacks from pro-Iranian groups. The Israeli government should warn the public of potential attacks through air raid sirens and radio announcements and evacuate certain areas through organized transportation and designated safe areas to minimize casualties. The US Army should also increase security around its military bases and retaliate against possible strikes against them in Syria. This retaliation should avoid targeting areas with civilians and avoid clashes with Russian forces who also operate in the area. The US and the Global Coalition against Daesh should ensure economic and military support to the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Free Syrian Army to strengthen their fight against ISIS. The US and EU should increase sanctions on the Syrian and Iranian governments, especially directed to material for weapons manufacturing. Human rights organizations, like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Amnesty International, should monitor any potential attacks against civilians and report any human rights abuses committed by all parties.

 

[2] Iran exploits quake relief mission to fly weapons to Syria, The Jerusalem Post, April 2023, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/article-739016

[3] Israel missiles hit arms depot in Syria's Aleppo airport: monitor, France 24, March 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230322-israel-missiles-hit-arms-depot-in-syria-s-aleppo-airport-monitor

[4] Syria blames Israel for Damascus airstrikes, two injured, The Jerusalem Post, March 2023, https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/article-735873

[5] US forces face possible Iran-backed threats in Syria again - analysis, The Jerusalem Post, April 2023, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/article-739021

[6] Iran exploits quake relief mission to fly weapons to Syria, The Jerusalem Post, April 2023, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/article-739016

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