Free Syrian Army soldier in battle
(Behind the News) Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Iran deployed 50,000 troops in Syria.
Israeli military intelligence commander Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Iran has taken over much of the Syrian campaign against Sunni rebels. Kochavi said Iran deployed Hizbullah and Shi’ite fighters in Iraq to protect the regime of President Bashar Assad, whose military dropped from 220,000 to 50,000.
“The damages of the imminent fall of Syria are very high for both Iran and Hizbullah,” Kochavi said.
Iran is losing a sole ally in the region surrounding Israel. It will lose the ability to transfer weaponry through Syria to Hizbullah. Iran and Hizbullah are both doing all in their power to assist Assad’s regime.
More after the jump.
In an address to the Herzliya Conference on March 14, Kochavi cited a much greater level of Iranian military involvement than acknowledged by NATO. The military intelligence chief said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hizbullah formed a special force assigned to protect the regime in Damascus.
“They support Assad operationally on the ground, with strategic consultation, intelligence, weapons,” Kochavi said.
Kochavi said the 50,000-man force built by Hizbullah and Iran was separate from that of Assad’s military. He said the Iranian-sponsored force, called the “People’s Army” would soon reach 100,000 fighters amid repeated failures by Assad to mobilize Syrians. So far, only 20 percent of required recruits have reported for Syrian military duty.
The People’s Army was said to have been launched in late 2012 and overseen by IRGC Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani. Officials said Suleimani has been in Damascus for the last few months to direct counter-rebel operations.
Kochavi said the People’s Army represented Iran’s determination to remain in Syria even with the fall of the Assad regime. He said neither Iran nor Hizbullah could lose Syria as a strategic hub.
“Most recently, they are establishing a ‘People’s Army’ trained by Hizbullah and financed by Iran, currently consisting of 50,000 men, with plans to increase to 100,000,” Kochavi said. “Iran and Hizbullah are also preparing for the day after Assad’s fall, when they will use this army to protect their assets and interests in Syria.”
At the same time, the Syrian Air Force has also expanded operations. Kochavi said the air force was conducting between 40 and 50 sorties a week and other units were firing the Scud-B and M-600 missiles.
The Assad regime has also fired at least 600 rockets with a conventional payload of 250 kilograms. Kochavi said Assad fired 70 Scuds and M-600s during the two-year revolt.
The intelligence assessment also detected threats by Al Qaida-aligned Syrian rebel militias. Kochavi said such militias, which he termed “global jihad terrorists” were spreading throughout Syria as well as Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
“The threat of a security deterioration, caused either by us attacking, or a terrorist attack on us is growing,” Kochavi said.