As the Syrian conflict continues to drag on without letup, satellite imagery appears to confirm reports that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is building a new ballistic missile production complex. What makes it stand out is the various features that seem to point to Iran’s influence on the complex, with larger implications for the region.
Iran has continued to build its influence within the Middle East, and this latest pairing with Assad seems to point to an expanding weapons program by Iran to give their allies greater capacity in a move that could force NATO to address Iran’s movement of weapons throughout the region.
There are those within the international community that see this as another sign of Iran’s increasing hostility toward Israel, as its allies surround the country. The company that took the satellite images concluded that the buildings were following a similar design seen in Iran, which has been associated with the production of ballistic missiles. However, the work is still ongoing and there has been no official confirmation of Iran’s assistance in the building of the facility.
The Syrian facility appears to closely resemble the missile factory by Tehran, known as Parchin. The area within the facility of Parchin was built with an area for nuclear development, as well as production. This same setup appears to be mimicked in the Syrian complex.
The building of this type of facility seems to indicate that Syria will now have the capacity to manufacture missiles of the same quality as Iran for many years to come. It has been seen as a potential step forward for Syria in terms of their missile quality.
Syria isn’t the only ally that seems to be building new facilities, as Lebanon has also shown evidence of similar locations with an Iranian influence. There also seem to be interesting qualities of these new facilities indicating that complexes are being created, with the possibility of underground tunnels and chambers being constructed as well.
As the international community and key nations, such as Russia and the United States look on, the Iranian regime could see this facility as a way to skirt the scrutiny of the international community. The concern is that Iran’s efforts are now going to make it possible for Hezbollah to have stand-alone capacity for their own missile production efforts and that manufacturing arms in Syria could give Iran the ability to facilitate arms movement and sales. Additionally, this facility could be another way to hide their ongoing nuclear program under the guise of another country’s facility.
“If you look … at past Iranian behavior, what you’ve seen is there have been covert actions at military sites, at universities, things like that,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told Reuters in an interview published on Aug. 22, 2017. “There were already issues in those locations, so are they [the International Atomic Energy Agency] including that in what they look at to make sure that those issues no longer remain?”
For Israel, these new facilities present a source of concern, as Iran positions itself to be able to move on Israel from Syria and Lebanon. The question is how Israel will respond to this latest action from Iran through its allies.