Russian T-90A main battle tanks drive during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An Iranian Islamic Republican Guards Corp force, comprised of hundreds of soldiers, recently entered Syria to assist the embattled Assad regime, a senior security source said on Thursday. Additionally, in a coordinated Iranian-Russian maneuver, Russian logistics military forces began to arrive to Syria’s coastal region to set up Russian fighter jets and combat helicopters.
Tehran dispatched its force “in light of Assad’s” ongoing distress, the source stated, adding that the deployment is part of a wider Russian-Iranian coordinated effort to prevent what remains of the Assad regime from collapsing.
According to Israeli assessments, the Assad regime currently controls 25 to 30 percent of Syria, consisting of Damascus and the Syrian coastline, where the regime’s minority Alawite support base is centered.
The source described a meeting last month between Quds Force commander Qassam Suleimani and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow as an event preceding the Russian- Iranian military initiative to rescue Assad.
In recent days, Russian military forces began to enter Syria to set up air strike capabilities aimed at protecting the Assad regime, the source confirmed. He described the Russian deployment as a “new development,” aimed at helping Assad retrieve areas that he lost in the past year. Mounting territorial losses mean that the Syrian capital of Damascus is now under threat from ISIS, the source said.
“I can’t see the Russian presence as changing the balance of power. It will apparently prolong the fighting. ISIS will never negotiate.
Combat will continue in the coming year, along with the human tragedy in Syria,” he said.
Rebels, using the cover of a heavy sandstorm of the past few days, launched a new offensive and seized the key northwestern city of Idlib, including an air force base there.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is struggling to make gains in Zabadani, in southwest Syria, the source said.
The entire Alawite heartland of Latakia and the port city of Tartus, where Russia has naval interests, is under threat as well, he said.
“The Russian interest is to save the regime, and its goal is to take part in combat against ISIS,” he said.
ISIS is making gains in Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, and is now better positioned to mount an assault on Damascus, according to the source.
ISIS elements have already infiltrated Damascus itself.
Other opposition forces are in the city too, harassing the regime.
In southern Syria, the past months saw the collapse of the Syrian army’s Division 52 in the Syrian Golan region, and today, the regime controls only Quneitra, while the rebels have taken all other areas. Quneitra too is under rebel threat, according to the source.