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June 20, 2017 3:25 pm

As US Challenges Iran in Syria, Concern Grows in Israel Over ‘Shiite Corridor’ Linking Islamic Republic to Mediterranean

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Paratroopers belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

As tensions between the US and Iran escalate in Syria, concern is growing in Israel that the Tehran regime is pressing ahead with its goal of carving out a land corridor stretching through Iraq and Syria to the border with the Jewish state, a leading expert on the region said on Tuesday.

Jonathan Spyer — a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA) in Israel who has reported extensively from Syria — told The Algemeiner that Iran’s ultimate goal was to “complete a contiguous corridor from Iran itself via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and the border with Israel.”

The latest flashpoint for US forces in the region came on Tuesday. A US F-15E fighter downed an armed Iranian drone near Al-Tanf in Syria, where the US is training Syrian rebels fighting against ISIS. The area is perilously close to territory controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies, and has been the site of armed skirmishes over the last month between Assad’s troops and US-allied forces.

Another Iranian drone was brought down in southern Syria on June 9, while two days ago the US military shot down a Syrian jet conducting a bombing raid close to positions held by US-allied forces around Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State’s so-called “caliphate.”

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated,” a statement from the Pentagon said, following today’s drone incident.

The fast-multiplying confrontations in Syria involving US forces could spiral into a deeper conflict with both Russia and Iran, as both countries attempt to consolidate the territories under their control as ISIS weakens. In the past week, Russia confirmed that it would treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as “potential targets,” while Iran fired missiles from inside its territory against ISIS targets in eastern Syria.

“Iran and its allies, apparently with Russian support, are attempting to fill the vacuum left by the collapsing ‘caliphate’ of ISIS in eastern Syria,” Spyer said.

The eastern part of Iran’s land link — dubbed by some as the “Shiite corridor” — is reported to have already been secured. In a dispatch from the region earlier this month, Jerusalem-based journalist Seth Frantzman said Iraqi militias allied with Iran reached the border with Syria on May 29.

“Photos posted online showed Shia militiamen celebrating next to signs pointing towards Homs in Syria,” Frantzman wrote. “Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force, was seen in photos near the Syrian border.

Spyer warned, “The advance of Iran’s corridor would have a major impact on the type of war Iran and its proxies could in the future wage on Israel. The weeks ahead will show whether the US and its allies on the ground will act to prevent this.”

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