Iraq – On April 9, the Iraqi government grounded an Iranian airplane heading for Syria, the second such grounding in two days. The aircraft was found to be transporting humanitarian aid to Syria. Iran is possibly keeping up an appearance by flying aircraft over Iraq with this type of cargo, however, if Iraqi authorities are willing, the Iranians will no doubt seek to continue to ship military material to the Syrian government via aircraft flying over Iraq. Iranian material support for the Syrian military is very important to the al-Assad government’s counter-insurgency operations.
Israel – On April 13, Israel fired artillery shells into Syria after Israeli military units in the Golan Heights came under attack from Syrian forces. Artillery shells and gunshots were fired at the Israeli Defense Force post. It is not clear why this attack would happen as Israel is not training, supplying or assisting forces that oppose the al-Assad government. It is possible that the attack was a warning to a close ally of the United States, which is reported to be actively supporting the Syrian opposition with military training and non-lethal aid.
Jordan – The Jordanian military has doubled its forces present near its border with Syria. On April 4, the Syrian government announced that the Jordanians are “playing with fire,” by allowing the United States and other countries to train and arm Syrian rebels on Jordanian territory. Past reports by 361 Security have indicated that individuals have been stopped at various border areas with Syria, including along the Syrian border with Jordan, in an attempt to close border traffic. The Syrian military appears to have failed to close its border region with Jordan, and is lashing out at Jordan and its allies. Syrian military authorities view the strategic depth that Jordan affords the rebels as a threat to its military campaign to defeat the revolution, and would like to intimidate the Jordanians into limiting the movement of weapons and fighters from Jordanian territory into Syria.
Lebanon – In the last month, there have been a series of reports of Syrian military aircraft firing on targets along the Lebanese-Syrian border, particularly in and around the north-eastern Lebanese village of Arsal in the Bekaa’ Valley. Reports indicate that in mid-March, a Syrian aircraft had bombed a target inside of Lebanon. In April, a Syrian jet had flown twenty miles into Lebanese territory, and fired a missile into a field on the outskirts of Arsal. A Syrian helicopter was also reportedly in the area of Arsal at the same time, and allegedly fired on a house near the town.
The Syrian government may be attempting to ignore border treaties and agreements, and pursue rebels as they flee for safety in Lebanon. This strategy is potentially being supported by the al-Assad government’s strongest ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah. It is reported that over 1,000 Hezbollah fighters have entered Syria to support the Syrian military, and that Hezbollah is working with the Syrian and Lebanese military forces to limit the number of Syrian rebels that move into and out of Syria from Lebanon. Reports indicate that this aid is due to recruiting issues that are facing the Syrian military and the geographic disbursement of Syrian forces as a result of the widespread nature of the conflict in Syria. Shi’ite fighters from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are also reported to be assisting the Syrian military.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst at 361 Security