Israel cannot tolerate a land corridor from Tehran to the Golan Heights.
Things are quickly changing on the ground in Syria. The civil war is concluding, with Bashar Assad still in power. As the U.S.-backed coalition drives the Islamic State from its remaining strongholds, Iranian-backed forces are racing to fill the void, seizing strategic territory with the goal of making Syria the heart and possibly the Iranian logistical center of a “Shia Crescent” — replete with land, air and naval bases — creating an Iranian sphere of influence stretching from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut and the Mediterranean.
This Iranian land bridge facilitates movement of Iranian-backed fighters and weapons between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Such a corridor expands Iran’s dominance in the region and empowers Hezbollah, now armed with tens of thousands of Iranian missiles. Syrian Information Minister Mohammad Ramez Tourjman boasted in a TV interview, “The aim is for a geographical connection between Syria, Iraq and the axis of resistance [Iran and Hezbollah].”
At least 18,000 fighters allied with Iran are present in Syria at any given time, a number that includes about 5,000 Hezbollah terrorists and 1,500 Iranian military personnel. Five-thousand tons of armaments have passed between Tehran and Damascus in the past few years. Iranian armament production infrastructure, including long-range missile manufacturing plants, is being set up in Syria. And Iran is working to control border areas between Syria and Iraq to allow it to transport fighters and captured Iraqi advanced weaponry from Iraq to Syria.
In early July, the Trump administration supported a series of Russia-U.S.-brokered cease-fires in western Syria. These de-escalation agreements failed to address Iranian presence on Syrian terrain post-conflict.