Iran and Hezbollah aid corrupt Syrian regime with influx of 50,000 trained soldiers
Israel fears that weaponry in conflict will fall into wrong hands
It what will doubtlessly prolong an already long and wearying civil war with no end in sight, both Iran and Hezbollah have built a 50,000-strong parallel force in Syria. Iran wants to prop up the corrupt Bashar al-Assad regime as well as maintain their influence after his fall.
Israel's military intelligence chief, Major General Aviv Kochavi says that Iran intends to double the size of this Syrian "people's army."
Kochavi also said that Assad's troops had readied chemical weapons -- but have not yet been given the order to use them.
Kochavi also warned of the increasing sway of extremist groups in the opposition, particularly the al-Nusra Front. He says that this faction is beginning to infiltrate Lebanon and has been making connections with a Sinai-based militant organization, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which is focused on attacks on Israel.
Israel opposes the western arming of Syrian rebels as it fears that the weapons will end up in the hands of extremists.
Defense officials say they are focused on Assad's sizeable arsenal of chemical weapons and missiles and they are prepared to carry out more air strikes to stop such arms being transferred to Hezbollah, even at the risk of what a senior official predicted would be an ugly new war in Lebanon.
It's been long believed that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are advising Assad's generals, and that Hezbollah guerillas are fighting alongside Syrian government troops.
Israeli officials say the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, has been in Damascus to oversee operations.
Kochavi also claimed that since last June, Tehran had been using Hezbollah to build up a large Syrian militia that would be Iranian-controlled even in the event of Assad's fall from power.
"The damages of the imminent fall of Syria are very high for both Iran and Hezbollah. Iran is losing a sole ally in the region surrounding Israel. It will lose the ability to transfer weaponry through Syria to Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah are both doing all in their power to assist Assad's regime.
"They support Assad operationally on the ground, with strategic consultation, intelligence, weapons," Kochavi told the Herzliya Conference, a meeting of security officials and analysts in Israel.
"Most recently, they are establishing a 'people's army' trained by Hezbollah and financed by Iran, currently consisting of 50,000 men, with plans to increase to 100,000. Iran and Hezbollah are also preparing for the day after Assad's fall, when they will use this army to protect their assets and interests in Syria."
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