Iran Completes Its Land Bridge to the Golan
Middle East Forum
The Jerusalem Post
November 18, 2017
Originally published under the title “Iran Puts Finishing Touches on Its Land Bridge to the Golan.”
Abu Kamal is the last link in the Iranian land bridge from the Iraq-Iran border to the Mediterranean.
In the east of Syria, the so-called race to Abu Kamal between the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces and the forces of Iran, the Assad regime and Russia appears to be close to conclusion – in the latter’s favor. Regime forces moved into the town last Thursday. They were then expelled by an unexpected Islamic State counterattack this week, and have now retreated to positions about two kilometers outside of Abu Kamal.
The Islamic State move, however, has the flavor of a last roll of the dice. Clearly, the Sunni jihadis will lose the strategic border town in the days ahead.
The US-supported SDF fighters are covering ground rapidly to the north. But the forward units of the mainly Kurdish force remain about 25 kilometers north of Abu Kamal, in the area of the Kishma oil field.
Abu Kamal is the last link in the much-discussed Iranian “land bridge” from the Iraq-Iran border to the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Israel.
Control of the border crossing at al-Qaim/Abu Kamal and of the roads leading west from it will enable the Iran-led regional alliance to transport fighters and weaponry in both directions, according to choice. It will mean that in a future confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel could see its enemies reinforced by supplies and volunteers from among other Iranian clients, in precisely the way that took place with such effect in the Syrian war.
Hezbollah can now be reinforced by Iran’s other regional clients in a future conflict with Israel.
Of course, such efforts would not be invulnerable to Israeli attentions from the air, and would not confer an irreversible advantage on the Iranian side. But given the Iranian weakness in aviation, the land bridge would vastly increase the options and abilities of the Iranian side.
It is worth noting in this regard that in recent days Iraqi Shi’a militias crossed the border by land for the first time in the Syrian war, to join the battle against Islamic State in the Abu Kamal area.
The land bridge would convey economic advantages as well as strategic ones. It would allow for the transport of Iraqi oil to regime-controlled Syria, bypassing the area currently controlled by the SDF. This will be important in the reconstruction period ahead, regardless of the precise lines of control within Syria.
US special envoy Brett McGurk and Saudi Minister of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan
Officially speaking, the reason for US involvement in eastern Syria has been the war against Islamic State. Neither more nor less. At the same time, there is evidence of extensive US military construction in Kurdish-controlled eastern Syria. Airstrips and bases have been built in Rumeilan, Manbij and Kobani…
A statement by US Defense Secretary James Mattis this week supported this impression (of longer term US interest). He noted that the US does not intend to “walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction,” and would fight Islamic State “for as long as they want to fight,” in order to prevent the emergence of “ISIS 2.0.”
If the US does decide to stay in eastern Syria, it will need to consider the logistics of how to supply this area, against the wishes of all neighboring entities. The Assad regime has made clear that once Islamic State is defeated, it intends to reunify the entire area of Syria.
The Assad regime has made clear that it intends to reunify the entire area of Syria once Islamic State is defeated.
Up until last month, the pro-US Iraqi Kurds controlled two border crossings to their Syrian brethren. But these were lost to the Iraqis and the Shi’a militias in the military action that followed the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum of September 25.
So, a difficult decision awaits the US. Much will depend on the choice made. But in any event, since the conquest of Abu Kamal by Iran and its allies looks inevitable, even if the US chooses to stick with its current allies in eastern Syria, this will not prevent the Iranian land bridge from coming into being. It is already a fait accompli.
From an Israeli point of view, this is a cause for concern. Israel’s focus is not related mainly to the Syria-Iraqi border, of course, but to the southwesternmost part of the corridor – where it is set to nudge up against the Quneitra crossing and the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights.
It is unlikely, in any case, that Russia could bring about the unilateral withdrawal of its Iranian ally from its hard-won corridor. Iran is not dependent on Russia and pursues its own agenda in Syria.
Tehran is presently pressing forward. The key issue of the extent to which the US will continue to be a player in this arena is set to be resolved in the weeks ahead. But whatever the US decision, the taking of the dusty, al-Qaim/Abu Kamal crossing is set to turn Iran’s land bridge, from Tehran to Quneitra, from an objective into an established fact.
Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).
Read the article HERE.
Great…so now we see why Assad and also Iran are so determined to poke the bear…the chance to get access through this roadway and in that way to far more assets and expanded agenda can and will continue to cause anxiety.
Don’t know about any of you but frankly this whole US/Middle East issue needs to end soon — for once and for all time.
Why is it so important that these Muslims not only attack but destroy every last remnant of another race and religion? That is in itself insanity and just plain evil.
Wherever the Jewish groups have settled in parts of the Middle East, from all accounts, they have brought prosperity and peaceful coexistence within their holdings.
Yet this doesn’t seem to be of any value to these Islamic haters? In contrast from a closer look at their holdings, we see disease, poverty, fear, hatred, desecrated buildings, locations laid waste, genocide, and horrific acts. They are living off an image of a “golden era” of centuries ago that is as far from today’s reality as we are to the sun.
There may have been at one time a civilization that was scientifically, medically, and technologically advanced in their region but that time is buried under tons of sand and equal tons of hatred, jealousy, and rivalry.
I’m going to also note that those times are from which many if not most civilizations sprang — NOT JUST MUSLIM. So in acting so high and mighty as a religion of “peace and prosperity” these Middle Eastern countries of today need to get a reality check.
One would also suggest that if they were not so hellbent on destroying historical records and sites, they might actually learn the truth.