Syria and Iran appear outraged after an airstrike was reported this week on Aleppo Airport. Aleppo has also been affected by an earthquake that struck Turkey last month. Syria’s foreign minister has depicted the airstrike as a “crime” because it supposedly harms the “civilian airport.”
The Syrian regime would like to portray the airport as a transportation hub dedicated to helping earthquake victims. In the past, however, Iran has apparently used the airport to move weapons to Syria. This comes after Iran also used the T-4 airbase and airports in Damascus in a similar fashion.
Iranian forces have been operating in Syria in support of the Syrian regime during the Syrian civil war. Iran also used the opportunity to establish militias, to get proxies to target US forces in eastern Syria and threaten Israel and to move weapons to Hezbollah.
Aleppo’s airport is in crosshairs
Israel has sought to stop Iran’s entrenchment in Syria via what is called the “campaign between the wars.” According to the Associated Press, on Tuesday, Syria’s state news agency SANA, “citing an unnamed military official, said Israeli warplanes fired missiles that hit Aleppo International Airport while flying over the Mediterranean Sea. It said the strike ‘caused material damage to the airport and put it out of service.’”
Several people were killed in the airstrike, France24 reported.
Aleppo Airport is in the crosshairs and not for the first time. In late August and in September 2022, there were airstrikes on the same airport. The runway was damaged and so was a structure near an area of the airport used by the Syrian military, Al Jazeera reported. In March 2019, there were also airstrikes in northern Syria, near Aleppo.
The airstrike comes as tensions with Iran are growing in the region. Iran continues to enrich uranium, and the US defense secretary was in Israel this week during a trip to the region. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited eastern Syria to meet US forces recently.
Iran has twice targeted commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman in the last months as well, and Iranian weapons bound for Yemen have been intercepted. Iran has conducted cyberattacks on the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, according to reports this week.
After the earthquake damaged Syria, killing thousands, last month, there were concerns that Iran would use the cover of the earthquake to move weapons. Basically, this means Iran disguises civilian support and civilian flights as it seeks to move weapons to Syria and Hezbollah. Iran has been doing this since the early days of the Syrian civil war.
After the earthquake damaged Syria, killing thousands last month, there were concerns that Iran would use the earthquake as cover to move weapons. Basically, this means Iran disguises civilian support and civilian flights as it seeks to move weapons to Syria and Hezbollah. Iran has been doing this since the early days of the Syrian civil war.
Syria’s use of strong language against the airstrike is unusual. Often the regime does not comment or claims it has shot down missiles, but it rarely uses words like it did this week, accusing Israel of a “crime.”
It is unclear if Russia will also condemn the strike. Russia backs the Syrian regime. A Turkish delegation is supposed to visit Russia soon, and Russia wants Turkey to reconcile with the Syrian regime. Turkey has elections coming up.
GULF COUNTRIES are also working on normalization with Syria, whose president, Bashar Assad, flew to Oman recently and has hosted UAE delegations. Saudi Arabia commented this week on the possibility of Syria returning to the Arab League. Riyadh confirmed there is dialogue about this issue. If Syria returns to the Arab League, it could make airstrikes more controversial or complex.
Syria’s Transportation Ministry has said it is “no longer possible to receive aid flights until the damage has been repaired.” An article at Middle East Monitor said Israel needs to “reassess the effectiveness of its airstrikes on Syria.”
“Nearly a decade has passed since Israel began its ‘battle between wars’ strategy in Syria, targeting Iranian forces and Hezbollah weapons convoys,” the report said. “Every few days or weeks, the media reports mysterious attacks in Syria, for some of which Israel did not hesitate to claim responsibility. Now, questions are being asked about the effectiveness of this strategy.”
This is one of the few articles in the region to take account of Israel’s strategy and ask critical questions about it. In general, the strategy is ignored in foreign media. In the past, the US has supported Israel’s attempts to stop Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
It is unclear if this incident will have a wider effect. Iran has in the past temporarily shifted its means of transporting arms to Syria and Hezbollah. Iran has also moved missiles to Iraq in the past or tried to use drones flown from Syria, Iraq and Iran to threaten Israel.
In addition, there is increased focus on the US role in eastern Syria. Turkey and Iran want the US to leave eastern Syria, as do the Syrian regime and Russia. Some voices in the US Congress on the far Left and far Right have also been urging the US to reexamine its role in Syria. This is important because if the US leaves, then Iran may fill the vacuum.
The US backs the SDF in eastern Syria in a campaign against ISIS. This means a lot is at stake this year in Syria, including potential reconciliation between Turkey and Syria, Syria returning to the Arab League and Iran increasing its threats in the region.
The overall effect on Aleppo Airport is not clear. Satellite photos released by ImageSat International on Wednesday showed Aleppo Airport after the strike. The intelligence and imagery firm’s images appeared to indicate the Syrians were already trying to repair the runway that was damaged. In the past, the regime has been able to get the airport up and running again.
The incident appears to show that Iran continues to try to use Syria to move weapons to Hezbollah or to move weapons to Syria. There have been reports that Iran would like to move air-defense systems to Syria. That Iran may use the cover of earthquake aid to move weapons is a serious threat and shows how Tehran exploits suffering in Syria for its own agenda.