Iranian Military Presence Near Golan Heights Alarms International Community

By Ahmad Rafat

In a surprise move on March 25, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. Mr. Trump announced his decision during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The move reverses U.S. policy for the last five decades.

The Knesset (Israeli Parliament) passed legislation in 1981 which extended Israeli government jurisdiction over the Golan Heights. The UN Security Council, however, adopted Resolution 497 in December of that year which declared the annexation of the Golan Heights “null and void and without international legal effect.”

U.S. President Donald and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. March 25 2019. Source: Kayhan London

During an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on March 27, 14 of the 15 member countries condemned the U.S. decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN Karen Pierce said: “The decision by the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights contravenes UN Security Council Resolution 497.”

Ambassador Pierce, however, acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself and urged “the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah to refrain from actions which will only lead to increased instability in the region and put civilians at risk.”

Golan Heights , 25 March 2019. Source: Kayhan London

Pierce added: “As the U.S. Representative has noted, Syria has allowed the use of its territory to launch missiles at Israel and Israeli civilians. This is not acceptable.”

“The position of the European Union as regards the status of the Golan Heights has not changed. In line with the international law and UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 497, the European Union does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights,” a statement by the European Council on March 27 read.

The Arab League also released a statement after its summit on March 31 which said: “The Golan is occupied Syrian territory according to international law, decisions of the United Nations and the Security Council.”

Golan Heights , 26 March 2019. Source: Kayhan London

A day after Trump and Netanyahu’s meeting in Washington, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bases in Aleppo in Syria. According to the Syrian opposition sources, the airstrikes targeted IRGC’s Qods Force (IRGC-QF) military installations and ammunition depot in Aleppo. Israeli jet fighters also hit Nairab military airport which is used by the IRGC.

Trump administration has made other policy decisions that have defied UN resolutions. In December 2017, the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The UN General Assembly passed Resolution ES-10/L.22 later in December condemning the U.S. declaration.

Israel, many Arab countries and the West are concerned about the increasing presence of Iranian-backed Shia militias in Syria. They are alarmed by the prospect of Iran building a corridor connecting Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to transport arms, ammunition, equipment, and missiles.

Golan Heights , 26 March 2019. Source: Kayhan London

In a recent interview with the biweekly Soroush (published every other week), the Commander of the IRGC Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said: “The Islamic Republic has trained 100,000 militias in Syria to fight Daesh and Al-Nusra Front in that country.” He added: “We have been training another 100,000 fighters in Iraq. It is our responsibility to share our knowledge and experience with these forces.”

Kayhan Life understands that the IRGC has strengthened its positions near the Golan Heights in recent months. The Iranian-backed Shia militias are reportedly under the command of Moussa Abbas Dakdouk, a veteran Hezbollah fighter who also served in Iraq. Commander Dakdouk is also known as Abu Hussain Sajjad to the international security agencies and military intelligence.

Abu Hussain was reportedly in charge of a terrorist operation on January 20, 2007, in Karbala, Iraq which killed five U.S. Marines. American forces arrested Mr. Sajjad and Qais Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, also known as Khazali Network, an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group. However, an Iraqi court released both men in 2012.

After his release from prison, Abu Hussain reportedly returned to Lebanon. He was not heard of until 2016 when he was said to be in Syria. He is reportedly in command of the Iranian-backed Shia militias near the Golan Heights. According to Israeli military intelligence, Abu Hussain has recruited and trained thousands of young Syrian Shia fighters so far.

After Israeli airstrikes in the Golan Heights, Abu Hussain reportedly moved his command-and-control center to a new location near Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport. Abu Hussain has been working with the IRGC forces since 2006. He reportedly enjoys the friendship and trust of the Commander of the IRGC forces Major General Ghasem Soleimani.

“Abu Hussain poses a serious threat to the security of Israel. He is an experienced military commander who can recruit and train Shia militias,” the Baghdad Post online news agency reported citing Israeli intelligence. “He also receives military and financial support from the IRGC.”

“Forces under the command of Moussa Abbas Dakdouk near the Golan Heights have received training in using missiles supplied to Hezbollah by Iran,” Italian newspaper La Stampa reported citing Israeli security agencies.

Prime Minister Netanyahu recently said: “Israel will not allow the Islamic Republic to use its bases in Syria to create a corridor between Tehran and Beirut to supply Hezbollah with weapons.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]