The latest air strikes on an airport near Damascus purportedly by Israel and increased U.S. military activities on Jordan’s northern border have triggered a concern in Tehran about the possibility of a broader U.S.-led military campaign in Syria. An article in , which is affiliated with former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) commander Mohsen Rezaei, wrote that the Israeli attack could be the beginning of a major offensive against Syria by a U.S.-led coalition that will include Israel, Arab countries and Syrian rebel forces. “There are increased activities in southern Syria that indicate preparations for an attack through Jordan and Israel and [with the help of] armed groups.” The paper suggested that the potential attack could be far more extensive than the U.S. missile strikes against the Shayrat airbase, and its aim would be to boost the morale of anti-regime rebel groups.
Another report in Tabnak Russian and Iranian military officials have told the Assad government that they are willing to deploy ground forces to help Damascus if needed.
Comment: While Iranian leaders emphasize that the Islamic Republic is undeterred by the U.S. and Israeli strikes in Syria and will not change its policies and actions in Syria or elsewhere, the Trump administration’s first attack against a Syrian airbase and the latest increase in U.S. military activities along the Syrian-Jordanian border have created a great deal of concern and questions in Tehran. As the article in Tabnak indicates, Tehran is worried that Washington and its regional allies are stepping up joint efforts to directly intervene in the Syrian war in support of anti-regime rebel groups.
A Free Syrian Army political officer reported earlier this month that U.S. forces were to the Jordanian border in coordination with Jordanian troops. Russian Foreign Minister said days later that Moscow was monitoring this buildup of coalition forces on Syria’s southern border. While the Trump administration’s primary focus in Syria remains on the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Tehran is concerned that such efforts would ultimately threaten the survival of its ally in Damascus.
During the U.S. presidential campaign, Iranian leaders – including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – uncharacteristically made complimentary remarks about then-candidate Donald Trump. Iranian military leaders, in particular, hoped that Trump’s positive view of Russian President Vladimir Putin and opposition to military intervention abroad would benefit Iran’s agenda in Syria and the broader Middle East. But that cautious optimism has changed into growing concern in Tehran since Trump took office in January and adopted an aggressive policy toward Iran, by imposing new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program, reestablishing close ties with Washington’s traditional Sunni allies in the Middle East, and broadening the scope of U.S. military engagement in Syria and Iraq.