Ostensibly, missiles produced at these plants will contribute to Assad’s simultaneous wars against moderate rebels including those of the Free Syrian Army. But the announcement also raises questions about how this Iran-initiated missile production will affect Iran’s regional influence in the event that its ally does triumph in the Syrian Civil War.
Of course, Iran has a history of exaggerating its military accomplishments and the extent of its power elsewhere in the region, and the missile production claims of Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh have not been independently verified.
Until such time as those claims are disproven they may serve both as a source of intimidation for regional adversaries and as a ready explanation for the presence of Iranian arms in Syria that does not acknowledge Iran’s violation of UN Security Council resolutions against the Iranian arms trade.
Hajizadeh’s claims come about a day after comments by Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani, boasting that Iran had come to have a leading missile capability in the Middle East region. Although the extent of recent gains in that capability are a matter of some dispute, Iran has been credited with helping Hamas to dramatically increase the range of its own missiles in recent years.
The production of Iranian-designed missiles in or near Damascus would create another potential source for the launch of those missiles against Israel. Syrian territory would thus join with the Gaza Strip, where Hamas operates, and Lebanon, where Iran controls and arms the Hezbollah paramilitary.
On Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a 9-step plan to “eliminate” Israel, calling upon Islamic militants the world over to support armed conflict until the Jewish state has been destroyed. Iranian officials previously solicited donations for the mission of arming the West Bank and bringing about a new conflict like that which took place in the Gaza Strip this past summer.