Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
TEL AVIV — Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Iran
deployed 50,000 troops in Syria.
Israeli military intelligence commander Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Iran
has taken over much of the Syrian campaign against Sunni rebels. Kochavi
said Iran deployed Hizbullah and Shi’ite fighters in Iraq to protect the
regime of President Bashar Assad, whose military dropped from 220,000 to
“The damages of the imminent fall of Syria are very high for both Iran
and Hizbullah,” Kochavi said. “Iran is losing a sole ally in the region
surrounding Israel. It will lose the ability to transfer weaponry through
Syria to Hizbullah. Iran and Hizbullah are both doing all in their power to
assist Assad’s regime.”
In an address to the Herzliya Conference on March 14, Kochavi cited a
much greater level of Iranian military involvement than acknowledged by
NATO. The military intelligence chief said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps and Hizbullah formed a special force assigned to protect the
regime in Damascus.
“They support Assad operationally on the ground, with strategic
consultation, intelligence, weapons,” Kochavi said.
Kochavi said the 50,000-man force built by Hizbullah and Iran was
separate from that of Assad’s military. He said the Iranian-sponsored force,
called the “People’s Army” would soon reach 100,000 fighters amid repeated
failures by Assad to mobilize Syrians. So far, only 20 percent of required
recruits have reported for Syrian military duty.
The People’s Army was said to have been launched in late 2012 and
overseen by IRGC Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani. Officials
said Suleimani has been in Damascus for the last few months to direct
Kochavi said the People’s Army represented Iran’s determination to
remain in Syria even with the fall of the Assad regime. He said neither Iran
nor Hizbullah could lose Syria as a strategic hub.
“Most recently, they are establishing a ‘People’s Army’ trained by
Hizbullah and financed by Iran, currently consisting of 50,000 men, with
plans to increase to 100,000,” Kochavi said. “Iran and Hizbullah are also
preparing for the day after Assad’s fall, when they will use this army to
protect their assets and interests in Syria.”
At the same time, the Syrian Air Force has also expanded operations.
Kochavi said the air force was conducting between 40 and 50 sorties a week
and other units were firing the Scud-B and M-600 missiles.
The Assad regime has also fired at least 600 rockets with a conventional
payload of 250 kilograms. Kochavi said Assad fired 70 Scuds and M-600s
during the two-year revolt.
The intelligence assessment also detected threats by Al Qaida-aligned
Syrian rebel militias. Kochavi such militias, which he termed “global jihad
terrorists” were spreading throughout Syria as well as Egypt’s Sinai
“The threat of a security deterioration, caused either by us attacking,
or a terrorist attack on us is growing,” Kochavi said.