The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has received information leaked from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) suggesting that Iran’s military operations in Syria may be far more extensive than many had previously thought.
The information, which was recently passed by the NCRI to online UK newspaper MailOnline, details extensive operations based out of a massive building nicknamed ‘the Glasshouse’ near Damascus.
The NCRI claims that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini has spent billions on hardware for Bashar Al-Assad’s government forces since the Syrian Civil War erupted in 2011.
The testimony gathered by the NCRI, if true, means that Iran currently controls the largest fighting force in the conflict and has military bases throughout Syria. The information has been analyzed by intelligence experts and described as ‘credible’.
The information gathered by the NCRI claims that the enormous ‘Glasshouse’ building, with 6 levels and 180 rooms, is the center for an organized and concerted effort to keep Assad in power in Syria.
‘The Glasshouse’: massive war complex near airport
The complex is strategically located near Damascus Airport to allow for frequent delivery of troops, arms, and equipment. Inside are departments for counterintelligence, logistics, propaganda and foreign mercenary command. The top two floors are received for Iranian intelligence services.
The information exceeds previous reports which, if the report is to believed, hugely underestimated Iranian involvement in Syria. Western sources had previously placed the number of Iranian combatants in Syria at 16,000; the reality may be that 16,000 Iranian troops are commanding 45,000 Shia mercenaries recruited from all over the Middle East.
Kamal Alam, a research analyst at British defense and security think thank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), has said that the information is “entirely plausible”.
“I go quite regularly to Syria and visit the battlefields, and I’ve seen how the Iranians try to keep their operations as secret as possible,” he said.
“Their troops tend to speak Arabic rather than Farsi in public, and generally don’t wear Iranian uniforms. This makes it very hard for observers to know how many are in the country.”
He claims western governments have been forced to make conservative estimates due to the lack of official figures released from Tehran.
Iran’s strategy in Syria and internationally
Neither the Syrian nor Iranian governments are interested in highlighting Iran’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. Syria does not wish to appear to be beholden to Iran’s influence, while Iran does not wish to spark alarm or outrage through its massive contribution to the violence.
The Syrian Civil War has been described as a proxy war and as a form of cold war because nations with a geostrategic interest in Syria, like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States, and European countries, all play a role in funding or arming loyalist or insurgent forces.
Bashar Al-Assad is a major regional Shia ally of Iran. It therefore has a strong incentive to sustain Assad’s presidency.
Being seen as playing too strong a role in the Syrian Civil War can be alarming to international observers, both because of the devastating human toll of the war and because it can cause tensions with those supporting the insurgents or who wish to see a swift end to the conflict. Intelligence revealing the extent of outside actors’ involvement in the war is often only revealed through information leaks.
To the international community and domestically, Iran has portrayed its involvement in Syria as a battle against international terrorism.
A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said in a statement to MailOnline that “Iran’s role in fostering instability in the Middle East, including ongoing support for proxy groups and the Assad regime, and the activities of the Quds force, remains a source of serious concern.”
Cover photo from Getty Images.