Iran Significantly Reducing Forces in Syria, Israeli Defense Official Says

Iran's economic woes, worsened by the coronavirus crisis, have limited Tehran's ability to support Hezbollah and other militias in Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Damascus, Syria, April. 20, 2020.
,AP

The Israeli defense establishment has identified a significant reduction in the number of Iranian forces in Syria, a defense official said on Tuesday.

An attack in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday was attributed to Israel. According to Arab news outlets, the air strike targeted a facility belonging to the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center.

According to the Israeli official, Tehran has been evacuating military bases near the border with Israel since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Israel attributes this to the damage incurred by allegedly Israeli attacks as well as to Iran's economic crisis.

Iran has been hard hit by U.S. sanctions and has suffered a massive loss of revenue following the nosedive in oil prices amid the coronavirus lockdowns.

Economic challenges have also impacted Iran's ability to support armed militias, including Hezbollah, which in the past have relied on Iranian financing. The Israeli source also noted that the Iranian leadership may see another wave of civil protests due to the economic situation and that Tehran must now focus on solving its internal problems.

Israeli defense establishment sources claim that Syrian President Bashar Assad understands that Iran has become a burden on his country, and that he pays a high price for its presence. The sources indicated that the Syrian army, which is struggling to rehabilitate following the long civil war, has been harmed in alleged Israeli attacks and lost fighting power in addition to damages to defense systems and anti-aircraft batteries.

The attacks attributed to Israel are concentrated around Damascus, although attacks have been reported in other areas in the country. The attacks have target military infrastructure, bases and facilities manufacturing Hezbollah's precision missile program, which are transported from Iran to Lebanon through Syria, according to reports. In addition, transporting goods from Iran to Lebanon without drawing attention has become more complicated during the global coronavirus crisis due to the reduction in flights.

Before and after satellite images of the weapons warehouse destroyed in the strike attributed to Israel in Homs, Syria
ImageSat International

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennet spoke of the campaign against Iranian entrenchment in Syria on Tuesday saying, "We are more determined, and I will tell you why. For Iran, Syria is a distant adventure 1000 kilometers from home. For us it's life." According to Bennet, "We won't give up and we won't allow the establishment of an Iranian front in Syria."