Iran to re-build Syrian air defences after continuous Israeli strikes

Iran to re-build Syrian air defences after continuous Israeli strikes
The commander of Iran’s Aerospace Force said that Tehran was 'ready' to export arms as soon as a conventional arms embargo was lifted.
3 min read
24 September, 2020
Major General Mohammad Bagheri (C) was given the request during his visit to Damascus [Anadolu]

Iran will develop Syria's aerial defence capabilities, a senior spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces told local media this week, ahead of the expiration of a conventional UN arms embargo.

The Syrian regime allegedly made a "request" from Iran's highest-ranking military commander, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, during the latter's visit to the Syrian capital, military spokesman Abolfazl Shekarchi told the pro-Iran Fars news agency.

Shekarchi said Tehran had established a new "contract" with the Syrian regime, without providing further details.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces, as well as government troops.

Alongside Russia, Iran has been a key ally of the Syria regime, sending in thousands of its fighters and proxies, helping to tip the scales in Assad's favour in a war which has killed at least 380,000 people and displaced millions more.

While the Syrian regime claims to intercept Israeli attacks, analysis from war monitors suggest its defence capabilities are limited.

Last week, suspected Israeli airstrikes in eastern Syria killed 10 pro-Iran fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The raids against militant positions south of Albu Kamal in Deir az-Zour province took the lives of eight Iraqi and two Syrian combatants, according to the war monitor.

On 3 September, presumed Israeli air strikes on eastern Syria killed 16 Iran-backed fighters, the Observatory said at the time.

While the Israeli army rarely acknowledges individual strikes, on 3 August it did confirm that it used military aircraft to hit targets in southern Syria.

Israel views Iran as a regional menace and has vowed to counter any Iranian military buildup in Syria, particularly near the frontier.

News of Iran's moves to develop the defence capabillities of a country outside its borders comes as UN Security Council rejected US efforts to reactivate sanctions on Tehran. These were lifted under a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.

US President Donald Trump, who pulled out of the deal in 2018, still argues Washington is a participant in the accord, with the right to impose sanctions for violations, such as those related to Tehran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Read more: Trump defiantly presses 'UN' sanctions on Iran

Following Washington's earlier defeat at the security council in mid-August, a conventional arms embargo against Iran will expire on 18 October, despite US claims that it has been extended "indefinitely".

On Monday, the commander of Iran’s Aerospace Force Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that Iran was "ready" to export arms as soon as the embargo was lifted, pro-regime Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran's defence minister said the lifting of the arms embargo allows the country to have a "stronger foothold" in the global arms trade, granting it greater repute for "exporting" rather than "importing" weapons. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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