Treasure in the Midst of Syrian Chaos
As intense battles continue in Aleppo and Damascus and as the future of Syria remains uncertain, it is becoming clear who will ultimately lose this round in the Middle East Spring. Aside from the Assad Regime and his Alawite clan, if Syria falls into the hands of the opposition, the two biggest losers will be Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. The two continue to fight despite the fact that it is unlikely that Assad will prevail, but at the same time they are also getting ready to cut their losses and focus on one important front: Intelligence. The Iran-Syria-Hezbollah triangle has been operating for decades, well before Bashar replaced his Father Hafiz Al-Assad in June 2000.
It is well known that Syria provided a safe haven for some of the most notorious Hezbollah terrorists. One such terrorist is Imad Mughniyeh who was linked to some of the worst attacks in America, Israel and even in Arab countries. Mughniyeh was eventually assassinated in 2008 in Damascus. Iran has been Hezbollah’s main sponsor since the early 1980s, contributing between 60 to 100 million dollars a year. A Pentagon report on the post-2006 Lebanon war period documents an increase of up to $200 million dollars in Hezbollah support from Iran, this in addition to millions more in weapons, training and logistical support. Hezbollah’s significant seed money helped them develop further sources of revenue. Hezbollah operates a drug trafficking operation that stretches from South America to Western Africa. These operations are headquartered in places like Brazil, where over 6 million people with Lebanese roots reside, and the Ivory Coast, home to 80,000 Lebanese residents. The RAND Corporation estimates that $20 million of Hezbollah’s funding each year is from the Tri-Border Area (Paraguay-Argentina-Brazil). In addition to using these funds to finance terrorist activities, Hezbollah also funnels them towards social welfare programs which help them maintain popularity and political influence in Lebanon.
Syria has been the main conduit for funneling weapons and millions of dollars between Iran and Hezbollah, including missiles from Tehran to South of Lebanon. A UN Security Council Resolution (1701) that came on the heels of the 2006 Lebanon war forbids Hezbollah from having any arms inside villages south of the Litani River, but that has had little impact on the flow of weapons and dollars. The notorious Quds Force, Iran’s special foreign operations arm, is very much present in Syria. So much so that after the bombing on July 18th that killed three senior security officials in Assad’s inner circle, rumors started to spread that the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, General Qasen Soleimani, was also killed in the bombing. He was reportedly attending the security meeting to coordinate the government’s response. The Tehran Times reported that “The head of the public relations department of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif, has dismissed news reports claiming that the commander of the Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a blast at the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in Damascus on July 18.”
Genearal Soleimani’s whereabouts at the time of the bombing and since then remain unknown, but that doesn’t change the fact that Iran’s intelligence apparatus as well as the Quds Force have worked and continue to work closely with the Syrians. It is safe to assume that Syrian intelligence is keeping careful record of Iran’s activities, financing, and operatives in their country and in the South of Lebanon. No dictatorial regime such as Assad’s would grant access to a foreign intelligence and military unit such the Quds Force without keeping a very close and watchful eye on them.
As the Syrian regime collapses and as more officials join the opposition, it is clear that both Hezbollah and Iran have a vested interest in not only saving Assad’s regime but in obtaining the Syrian records of their activities before they get into the hands of the rebels or, even worse, in the hands of US and Israeli intelligent operatives. There is a wealth of information to be found amid the Syrian chaos; information that could cause serious damage to the terror masters in the Islamic regime and the South of Lebanon for years to come. This time of chaos in Syria presents a rare opportunity to uncover an extensive and entangled web of terror and destruction. It will be wise to use this opportunity since Syria needs to be liberated from it as well.
Nir Boms is a co-founder of CyberDissidensts.org. Shayan Arya is an Iranian activist and a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat)