Iraqi, Iranian reinforcements for beleaguered Syrian regime

Iraqi, Iranian reinforcements for beleaguered Syrian regime
Reeling from reverses it has suffered in northern and central Syria, and hard pressed by the Islamic State group, the regime is being reinforced by its Iranian and Iraqi allies.
2 min read
08 June, 2015
Fierce fighting has also erupted between the IS and opposition forces in the north [Getty]

Around 7,000 Iranian and Iraqi fighters have arrived in Damascus to reinforce the beleaguered Syrian regime, Syrian security source told AFP last week.

The regime has suffered a series of serious losses at the hands of the Islamic State group (IS) and Jaish al-Fateh, a coalition of Islamist groups led by the Nusra Front, in the last few weeks.

The Shia governments of Iran and Iraq are allies of the Syrian government. Iran has provided Damascus with financial and military support throughout the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011, and Iraq is fighting its own war against the Sunni IS.

"The goal is to reach 10,000 men to support the Syrian army and pro-government militias, firstly in Damascus, and then to retake Jisr al-Shughur because it is key to the Mediterranean coast and the Hama region" in central Syria, the source added.

Regime forces lost control of the key northern town of Jisr al-Shughur to the Jaish al-Fateh on 25 April, and the central desert town of Palmyra (Tadmor) on 21 May to the IS.

May was the bloodiest month in the Syrian conflict this year, with 6,667 people killed.

Despite heavy bombardment of Palmyra and surrounding regions by regime warplanes, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said that "IS has made further progress on the Tadmor-Damascus highway and grabbed the Khnaifess phosphate mines and nearby houses.”

The Observatory says the IS now controls half of all Syrian territory.

The IS is also pushing an offensive into the eastern Syrian city of Hassakeh, control of which is currently divided between Kurdish forces and the regime since Saturday.

The IS have been using mortar attacks and suicide bombs, while Syrian regime forces have used extensive aerial bombardment to defend their positons.

A diplomatic source in Damascus said Iran was insisting Syria change its strategy to focus on holding less territory more securely.

Analysts and observers have said the Syrian government now appears ready to accept the de facto partition of the country, focusing on the defence of strategically important areas and leaving others to rebels or jihadists.

According to one source close to the regime, it considers the coast, the central cities of Hama and Homs, and the capital Damascus as vital.

It also regards the Damascus-Beirut and Damascus-Homs highways as "red lines", the source said.

Thus far, more than 220,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. According to the observatory, May was the bloodiest month this year, with 6,667 people killed.