Why is Syria being placed in the spotlight this week? - analysis

Iran’s movements in Syria and the movement of Iran’s weapons draw attention to the Syrian, Russian and Iranian activity within it.

 Hezbollah and Syrian flags flutter on a military vehicle in Western Qalamoun, Syria August 28, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS/OMAR SANADIKI)
Hezbollah and Syrian flags flutter on a military vehicle in Western Qalamoun, Syria August 28, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/OMAR SANADIKI)

In the previous two weeks, Syria has been in the spotlight because of Iran’s moves in the region. This includes Iranian threats to US forces in eastern Syria and Iran’s attempts to continue entrenching in Syria.

Iran stations weapons in Syria as well as moving them through to Hezbollah and works with militant and terrorist groups in Syria.

Syria is also divided between zones that are controlled by the US and zones that are controlled by Turkey as well as areas dominated by Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime. This makes the country incredibly complex.

While Syria’s complexity and division is not new, it does appear to have been in focus in the last weeks. Will that continue to mean the country is somehow “in play” between the various countries that compete within Syria?

Alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

 A satellite image of the Aleppo Airport runway. (credit: IMAGESAT INTERNATIONAL) A satellite image of the Aleppo Airport runway. (credit: IMAGESAT INTERNATIONAL)

Last week, Syria alleged Israel carried out airstrikes on Aleppo and Damascus airports, a claim repeated by Iranian media.

A report by ImageSat International (ISI) noted that Aleppo International Airport was damaged in an airstrike on August 31. The same report said the airport had been repaired and had “probably returned to service,” which indicates the Syrian regime may want to enable Iran to continue to move weapons via Syria.

At the same time, UK-based Asharq al-Awsat reported that Russia had called on Iran to withdraw from areas in central and western Syria.

Russia’s demand was made during a meeting that included three Russian officers and their Iranian counterparts at the Hama Military Airport in central Syria on Wednesday. ‘Russian officers informed the Iranian side of the need to evacuate Iranian military headquarters near the site of Regiment 49, which belongs to the Syrian regime forces,’ a source told Asharq Al-Awsat. The Regiment 49 site is one of the most important military sites in western Hama because it houses long-range S-200 missiles and other Russian-made military equipment,” the report said.

“Russia’s demand was made during a meeting that included three Russian officers and their Iranian counterparts at the Hama Military Airport in central Syria on Wednesday."

Asharq al-Awsat

This means that a source, or sources, could be spreading an inaccurate story or misinformation. Would someone want the world to know that Russia is trying to get Iran to leave certain areas?

This might benefit Russia and the Syrian regime and it might provide cover for Iran. It could also be a way to indicate the Syrian regime and Iran are concerned about Iran’s role. Overall the point of the report is that it tells us that either there is daylight between Iran and Russia or someone wants us to believe there is.

Either way, this is important. In the past, reports have claimed that Russia was displeased with Iran’s build-up in Syria. Also, there were reports that the Syrian regime was concerned about Iran attacking US forces in places like Tanf.

The reason the regime is concerned is that it brings down airstrikes in Syria that can endanger regime members. But there is also no evidence that Russia and the regime really do anything to curtail Iran’s role. Iran, Russia and the Syrian regime are allies.

Another report at UK-based SOHR claimed that Hezbollah was concerned about Israeli attacks in Syria and had brought forces to Mahin, east of Homs. Again, this can be real information or it could be someone wanting to point this information out for certain reasons, drawing attention to this area.

Back in late August, Asharq al-Awsat had also reported “Iranian militias and Syrian regime security forces have cordoned off military sites used by the militias in western Hama and central Syria after they were targeted by Israeli raids on Thursday.”

These reports paint a picture of Syria in flux and a potential struggle between Iran’s agenda and other agendas in Syria. This week and subsequent weeks could prove crucial in whether Iran continues to escalate its role.