Military Bases in Syria, Belt of the Orient

Security expert and Head of “Unit of Research & Studies of Barq Consultation Center”;

Investigations and political reports;

Type: Geo-strategic report:

It investigates the most important foreign military bases, their locations in Syria, equipment, both current and future military roles assigned.

This report sheds light on:

  • Bases and areas of foreign dominant powers in Syria;
  • US Military bases and autonomous lines of supply in Syria;
  • Russian military bases in the west and the coastline of Syria;
  • The legitimacy of these bases from both legal and popular perspectives;
  • Operational back-up lines in Syria;
  • Turkish back-up lines;
  • British presence;
  • Conclusion.

Introduction

Following decades of geographical stability, the “smashed” Republic of Syria is being prepared to enter a stage of change in accordance with post Sykes-Picot Agreement’s maps. This has resulted from the revolutions of the “Arab Spring”, that have upset the face of the orient. New partitions will probably occur according to the interests of key international powers by imposing their strategies against the “White House” agendas led by an aspiring administration led by Tramp. This new American Administration tends to upset the world equations through the gate of the Middle East. These agendas constitute an outright breach of regression policies adopted by the United States of America during former Obama two presidential terms.    

However, American regression hasn’t been associated with a total absence from the arena as the United States has always had an inconspicuous role forged by a number of both military and intelligence activities. Military bases and autonomous lines of supply which spread throughout Syria represent this implicit existence of the United States of America. In addition, there are several military bases of other countries like Russian bases in “Humeimim” and “Tartous” seaport, and the British lines of supply near “Al-Tanf” border crossing and “Al-Walid” Crossing Border on the Syrian-Iraqi borders. These bases and lines of supply will be discussed through this report.

Military Bases and areas of dominance

These bases are military facilities run and managed by armies of foreign countries, and they are a resort to both their military recruits and allies related to their bases where both military and operational equipment are warehoused for purposes of surveillance and training.

These bases adopt rules of establishment of military bases conventions, which are based on three conventional methods:

  1. International convention;
  2. Enforced occupation;
  3. Hiring contract.

Foreign military bases were first operated during the classical colonial era, since it represented one of the colony tools to control occupied countries.

Thus, Syrian Arab Republic is included by the definition mentioned above, and this definition is applicable to the Syrian case because some of its territories of sovereignty are under the control of foreign military bases no matter if they are approved by the Syria as a state represented by its ruling regime or not. 

In a statement by Monzir Diwani[1], a military expert, regarding the existence of military forces in Syria, said: “no occupational force can persist, and we are – as Syrians regardless of any other views and visions – do not recognize any foreign existence, and we are supported by a determined attitude of millions of Syrians who got down to the street to demand the toppling of the regime. Thus, all agreements and accords that lead to the handing over of any Syrian territories to foreign powers of long-termed agendas that serve both the interests of foreign countries and Israel security, and ignoring the interests of both our people and homeland at the expense of the sovereignty and independence of our country will be widely rejected.”.

Accordingly, we are going to review the main military bases, and the territories that are under foreign domination in Syria from the spark of the Revolution early 2011 to the sixth year of the revolution:

American Military Bases & Autonomous Lines of Supply

These bases are located in the east and northeast of Syria, and they can be listed as follows:

“Rumeilan” Base

It is located in the far northeast of the Syrian Peninsula region (known locally as Jazeera). This base was active after it had been changed from an agricultural airport into a logistic base beginning of January 2016. The base was used for landing operations and as helicopter air-field. The base also provides a line of connection between the Kurdish (PYD) forces and the “International Alliance Forces”.       

Moreover, its geographical location makes it as a supply base, solidifying the base of the American Artillery, Firebase Bell, in the town “Mahkmour” in north Iraq between the cities of “Mosul” and “Karkouk”, where it provides a fire-supported surveillance range, that can target any enemy forces like ISIS guerrilla forces in the north of both Syria and Iraq.

Rikban Base

It is located to the east of Syrian desert (locally known as Sham Badia), and it is virtually known as “Al-Tanf” American base, that is assigned to perform a surveillance task of “Sham Badia”, the Syrian southern desert region, and to provide logistic connection with the base of “Ain Al-Assad”, known as (Al-Qadisyya) in “Al-Anbar” desert region in Iraq.   

The base contains a sophisticated radar system, and Marines forces as well as long-range ground shooting weapons of several models like long-range rocket-artillery batteries, type “HIMRAS”. 

In addition, there is “Tel Abyad” base, which is still under construction, and other lines of both surveillance and early warning supplies, operational aids and rapid intervention forces of a limited military effectiveness.

Russian Bases in Both the West and the Coastline of Syria

“Humeimim” Air-base

It is located to the east of the city of “Latakia”. It is a Russian-run base due to an agreement made with the Syrian regime in August 2015. The agreement authorizes the Russian forces to use the base in times of war and peace for an unlimited time span against no materialistic or financial revenues. 

When asked about the significance of “Humeimim” air-base, Major “Munzir Diwani” answered: “Not only does its importance stem from Geo-military location that enables it to control the deep range of the east Mediterranean territories, but its danger comes from two other advantageous factors:

The first; it contains highly advanced Su model jet fighters. It is also equipped with strategic missile systems, and S 300 and S 400 air-defense systems, solidified by 5000 fighters and logistic personnel, and air forces and marines landing forces i.e. commandos.    

The second; Humeimim is assigned to perform a role of coordination between both military and security operations, and the groups working on the ground wherther these groups are armed forces or well-known politicians, the so-called “Humeimim’s Opposition”.

As for the maritime bases, the supply bases and the “Center of the Russian Permanent Maritime Maintenance” are of a significant importance, because they are located in Tartous sea-port. These bases had been established in 1966, and the Soviet Naval Forces used a part of it according to an agreement signed with Hafez Assad regime in 1971. It has been lately changed into an advanced Russian maritime unit, where specialized staff can maintain ships and freighters coming from the cold “Baltic Sea”, the “Black Sea” through Turkey “Phosphorus Strait” to the warm water of the “Mediterranean”, which has been connected to the Russian forces located in Greece. This connection has given Russia a disrupting capability against both NATO’s capabilities and its freighters surfing the Mediterranean. The Russian base is operated by surveillance and control systems, and other sentry and air-defense ones, in addition to “S 300” Batteries that cover the range from the Black Sea” in the north to the “Mediterranean” in the south.              

As for the legitimacy of these bases and the lawful eligibility of the regime to grant these privileges to foreign countries, “Nawwaf Rakkad, a strategic specialist in International Law stated: “the International Law is not based on internal constitutions as much as it is based on the official acts and the declarations of countries, therefore, all military rules, that were officially approved by the regime, are legal according the International Law as this law still deems Bashar Al-Assad’s regime as a legitimate representative of the Syrian Arab Republic. Thus, Russia, compared to America and other actors, has a privilege since its bases are located due to domestic decrees and acts issued by the a “legitimate” regime, that can eligibly grant long-termed transactions.             

Operational Lines of Supply Widespread in Syria

They are temporary assembly places used by the state of sovereignty concerned by allied forces, or by enemy forces, where they are located due to military geography, serving these operating forces in a well-defined territory in a way they easily provide all sorts of support to fighters working on the ground. Anyway, there are three locations that can be applicable to the definition mentioned above, and we start from the north.     

Turkish Line of Supply in Jarablus

It is located on the northern borders, and it was established by the Turkish forces in the Turkish city of “Karkamish”. The Turkish authority moved it into Syria after ISIL fighters had been driven out from Jarablus by “Euphrates Shield[2]” fighters in August 2016 (16). Since then the line of supply has been run in Jarablus, and it will probably be developed into a permanent camp and an advanced Turkish military base inside the Syrian land. 

The Turkish line of supply contains helicopter air-field, and a command and control center as well as a logistic supply warehouses, and other warehouses of light, medium and heavy weapons and equipment. It also contains 45 km ranged-heavy artillery emplacements and some thousands of Turkish soldiers and allied forces like the “Euphrates Shield” forces spreading on the two sides of the Syrian-Turkish borders.     

Al-Tanf Line of Supply

It is opposite “Al-Walid” Crossing on the Iraqi side, and it is engaged by Britain-Jordan backed faction called (New Syrian Army). The line is assigned to fight forces of Islamic State in Iraq and Sham ISIS in the Syrian desert (locally known as Badia), and to halt ISIS advance that might combine the Syrian desert with the Iraqi one that stretches along a span from “Al-Tanf/Al-Walid” to “Tureibil” Crossing on the Iraqi-Jordanian borders.     

As for the British existence in Syria, it is confined to many consultants, belonging to the “Royal Air Forces”. These consultants are assigned to perform tasks of surveillance and training of allied forces in “Al-Tanf” as reported by a person who has worked in that military base. It is a set of caravans including foreign fighters and   tents to accommodate fighters of the “New Syrian Army”, and both light and medium weapons emplacements like different caliber mortars, four-wheel drive vehicles. The base contains heavy machine guns (known locally as air-defense 23 Millimeter caliber machine gun), and other mobile contact units as well as helicopter air-field used by the British Air forces.  

Al-Kiswa Base

This base is located in the town of “Al-Kiswa” that is 8 Km to the south of Damascus and 50 Km from territories occupied by Israel. This base constitutes a ground assembly point of pro-Iranian militias of “Vilayat El-Faqih”. According to information obtained, the base is still lightly armed, and it contains both light and medium weapons. It is run by sectarian groups, that are taking part in military operations in favor of the Syrian regime in the regions of “Ghouta” and “Qalamoun” near Damascus.   

As for the south, Israeli military operations are sometimes negated, and some other times Israeli officials affirm the allegations of the establishment of security strip based on a solid military structure and security and surveillance complex of bases in the higher territory of “Al-Jalil” in occupied Palestine since 1948, though Israeli forces did excavation works of the ground in the territories bordering Syria along the town of “Bir Ajam” in the central territory of “Quneitra” in July 2015. These operations imply Israeli intention to establish military bases beyond the UN “Truce Line” separation of forces agreed on after October 1973 War.

Consequently, the continued existence of these forces reveals the problematic aspect in case a political formula is worked out to find out an end to the ongoing conflict in Syria. The formula is illustrated by a specialist in the “International Law”, Nawwaf Al-Rakkad’s declaration: “If the Syrian people can overthrow the regime, they will be able disrupt all agreements mentioned above, and they will endure both legal and political sequences that are similar to the ones which resulted from the nationalization of “Suez Canal” navigation Company by late President Jamal Abdul-Nasser. The nationalization of “Suez Canal” was an outright breach of the agreement concluded with Britain, which fired up “Tripartite Aggression” on Egypt, but the worldwide recognition of the legitimate rule and its legitimate acts that had been resulted from “July 1952 Revolution” aborted the aggression.  

Having a quick look at the forms and locations of the military bases and points on the Syrian ground, we see that they are making up a belt, covering the four corners of the Syrian homeland, where the Turkish bases are in the north, the Israeli are in the south, the Russian bases in the west and the American and British remarkable bases in the east. This circling, so to speak, belt serves the continued flames of war inside Syria, and prevents the splinter of this war to spread outward the region limits permitted. This belt serves the interests of each of the countries involved in the adjusted engagements so that the conflict remains limited to the Syria geography.      


[1] A Syrian Army officer who defected from Assad’s Regime in 2012.
[2] A faction of Free Syrian Army allying with Turkish army.


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