Iran Flexing More, Not Less, Military Muscle in Syria

(Fox News) Paul Bucala - A month ago, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that Iran was moving its troops out of Syria. Unfortunately, it isn't so. Instead, Iran is rotating forces in and out of Syria, bolstering pro-Assad militia units and likely beefing up Tehran's ability to project military force abroad. These developments deserve close scrutiny rather than optimistic misinterpretation. In October 2015, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) plugged brigade-sized cadre formations into an amalgam of Iraqi Shia militias, Hizbullah, and other pro-regime militias in order to integrate and lead these proxy forces. The IRGC units rotate on tours of two or three months at a time. Iran also expanded its presence on the frontlines in Syria; during the first week of February over 40 IRGC members were reportedly killed during operations north of Aleppo. Five IRGC members were reported killed in March, and at least six were killed south of Aleppo on April 2. Moreover, Iran's leadership is now deploying its conventional troops, the Artesh, in Syria to serve in an "advisory" role for pro-regime forces, marking a significant shift in their role. The IRGC and the related Quds Force have historically been responsible for conducting Iran's military and paramilitary operations abroad. The bigger picture is that the Iranian military, both the IRGC and the Artesh, are deploying and sustaining ground forces in major combat operations far from Iran's borders. They are also building up capacity to do more of the same. The writer is an Iran analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

2016-04-08 00:00:00

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