Iranian Takeover of Buildings and 1000 Convoys (some carrying weapons?) transferred through the corridor!
On February 6, 2023, in the morning, a devastating earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria. Over fifty thousand people were killed in both countries, and tens of thousands were injured. Much damage was caused to buildings, and hundreds of thousands of people in Syria lost their homes. The search and rescue missions in Syria came mainly from Russia and Arab and Muslim countries. Most of them had already left when there was no hope of finding survivors under the rubble. The elements of the Syrian regime (in areas controlled by the government, such as the city of Aleppo) and the radical Shiite axis led by Iran (Mosham, Shiite militias, and Hezbollah), who are regularly present in the area, remain there.
In the civilian aspect, the situation created will allow the Iranians to establish themselves better while taking advantage of the difficult humanitarian crisis created by the circumstances.
The “Khatam al-Anbiya” organization is a civilian economic arm of the IRGC. It began operating in the city of Aleppo as early as 2017 after the forces of the Syrian regime recaptured it with the backing of the forces of the radical Shiite axis. Officially, “Khatam al-Anbiya” is a company that won the tenders of the Syrian regime together with other Iranian companies to restore the ruins of the war in the city (1). In practice, the organization strengthened the establishment and presence of Shiites in the region by purchasing and renovating areas and buildings.
The damage caused by the quake further weakened the local residents and their bargaining power vis-à-vis the Iranians. The local residents seem to be in a kind of “moral debt” to the Iranians at best and dependence at worst in light of the damage caused to their homes and the humanitarian aid Iran has sent in the last days and weeks since the earthquake.
According to various indications from the last few weeks, “Khatam al-Anbiya” has started a large-scale campaign of “offers that cannot be refused” to apartment and house owners in East Aleppo. To make them leave their homes at very low prices. According to the reports, the Iranians allude to the homeowners that if they do not accept the offers, their homes will be declared for demolition due to structural damage caused by the earthquake, leaving the homeowners with nothing(2).
In the military aspect, the earthquake in Syria creates a huge intelligence challenge at the beginning of 2023. Weapon loads transported under cover of civilian truck convoys.
The main area in which we notice the Iranian exploitation of the consequences of the earthquake is the land route in the Iranian corridor that reaches Syria from Iraq. This is in contrast to the airway in the corridor. Two weeks after the earthquake, out of over a hundred aircraft (3), only seven Iranian planes landed at the various Syrian airports – Damascus, Aleppo, and Latakia.
Intelligence surveillance of planes and airports is easier than surveillance of trucks, and the Iranians are well aware of this…
Our indications indicate a “flood” in the size and quantity of the trucks arriving through the Iranian corridor without interruption from the border crossings with Iraq towards Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia. The truck convoys continue to flow even in the last few days, three weeks after the disaster.
According to the information in our possession, as of February 25, about 1000 aid convoys of various sizes and scopes left Iraq and arrived through the land corridor toward northwest Syria(4).
Even if the number of convoys is smaller than the number shown above, it is difficult to ignore the particularly large scope of some of the convoys: For example, on February 24, a convoy of 80 huge trucks arrived in Latakia from the Karbala area(5). At the same time, a convoy of 233 (!) trucks entered through the Al Bukamal border crossing towards Aleppo(6). On February 20, a convoy of 150 trucks was organized at the base of the 42nd Brigade of the Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi militia, operating under the auspices of the IRGC. Also, entering Syria through the Al Bukamal border crossing towards Aleppo(7).
The size and scope of the convoys coming through the Iranian corridor are especially noticeable when compared to those from moderate Arab countries, which are not suspected of smuggling weapons like Jordan, from which convoys of about 20 not particularly large trucks arrive(8). Or the rich Saudi Arabia, which also sends convoys of a similar size(9).
The vast size and scope of the convoys arriving through the Iranian corridor naturally raise the obvious question of to what extent they are being used to transfer Iranian military equipment and weapons to Syria and from there to Lebanon. In any case, it is clear that they are well used to strengthen the Iranian establishment in Syria in general and in northwestern Syria in particular.
When another convoy organized by “Al Hashd al-Sha’abi” with 280 trucks and about 4000 tons of equipment arrived in Aleppo on February 23, Ali Jabouri, commander of the 42nd Brigade of the militia, said that the convoy proved that the Syrian people and the Iraqi people are actually one people. Alluding to the attack on convoys in the past, Jabouri said that the American and Israeli attempts to separate and sever the connection between the countries are bound to fail(10).
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