The US State Department has released a video alleging that Iran has established a military training base in Lebanon in close proximity to Rayak Air Force base near the border with Syria.
The video, released in an Arabic language tweet on Tuesday, said that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force training facility near Beit Moubarak on Lebanon’s eastern border opposite Syria’s Zabadani is a training facility for armoured personnel carriers.
“We see a small little valley that goes down. This has a series of berms that are alternating, the ones on the left, and the next ones on the right. This is a training course for armored personnel carriers,” Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Senior Fellow for Imagery Analysis at Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) said in the video.
RT @DOTArabic: قوة القدس التابعة للحرس الثوري تعمل على تدريب وتسليح وتجهيز مليشيات تابعة لها في معسكرات تدريب في#لبنان، وكذلك في #إيران. الهدف من ذلك هو استخدام هذه المليشيات في حروب الوكالة، وإشاعة عدم الاستقرار في عموم الشرق الأوسط #العراق #البحرين #اليمن #سوريا #أفغانستان pic.twitter.com/xqVElE3PS9
— الخارجية الأمريكية (@USAbilAraby) May 14, 2019
According to Seth G. Jones, Senior Advisor at CSIS, Iran’s goal with a base like the one in Lebanon is to improve the capabilities of its local allies like Hezbollah and has similar training facilities in Iran “where it can bring individuals from all of these locations.”
“The IRGC’s Quds Force is Iran’s primary military actor in the Middle East. It competes with countries like the United States by training, advising and equipping sub-state forces including Shia militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said.
The Imam Ali Training Facility outside the Iranian capital of Tehran was mentioned in the video as being “a small facility until 2008” and has since become “a much larger, much more comprehensive” site with shooting ranges, and training facilities for urban fighting and parade grounds, Bermudez explained.
According to David Daoud, a research analyst on Hezbollah and Lebanon at United Against Nuclear Iran, while the video suggests that IRGC base was discovered this past February, it “could be much older.”
“I also doubt APCs would be of any use to Iran or its proxies in confronting the United States or regional allies like the Israelis. They’d be easy targets for superior stand-off firepower,” Daoud told The Jerusalem Post.
Nevertheless, the fact that the base is in close proximity to Rayak air base shows two things, Daoud said.
“First, how compromised the eastern Lebanese-Syrian border is to entry of “resistance axis” elements and the Lebanese state’s inability to properly police its territory against Iranian penetration. The IRGC base’s proximity to the LAF’s Rayak Air Base only underscores this,” he said. “Second, it further demonstrates unification of the “Resistance Axis” that Nasrallah and other Iranian proxy-militia leaders have often mentioned, where in a future war (say, against Israel) Hezbollah would not fight alone, but would be joined by other forces.”
Officials in Israel’s defense establishment have warned that the Lebanese army has lost its independence and become an “integral part” of Hezbollah’s network and that the next war on Israel’s northern border will not be confined to one front but will see conflict with both Syria and Lebanon.
With the saber rattling between Iran and the United States, Daoud told The Post that it was “highly unlikely” that a war would break out “absent some miscalculation” but if one were to occur Iran would “activate their proxies on some level against US regional allies that would include Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006 and while the border has been relatively quiet, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has warned that the next war with Israel would see fighters from across the Shia world participating.
But, Daoud said, “Hezbollah is as disinterested in a genuine escalation as its Iranian masters,” as a full-blown regional war would “endanger of all of its (Iran’s) gains in Syria and Iraq.”