March 29, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6849

'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat' Report Specifies Locations Of Foreign Military Bases In Syria, Says Syria Is Turning Into Brittle Federation That Can Fall Apart At Any Moment

March 29, 2017
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 6849


On March 14, 2017, the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published a report giving the location of military bases of various foreign forces in Syria, including the U.S., Russian and Turkish forces. According to the report, the locations of the bases reflect the influence-zone of each country, and that Syria is gradually becoming a loose federation of ethnic states that can fall apart at any moment.[1] 

The following are excerpts from the report:


"In the lost time between the Geneva and Astana conferences, the superpowers turned to expand their influence-zones in Syria by establishing numerous military bases which, according to experts, effectively pave the way towards a political solution based on a federation and the division [of Syria]. Until now Moscow and Washington were the major players in this theatre alongside Iran, but recently Ankara decided to establish many military bases of its own in the region known as the Shield of the Euphrates,[2] in order to ensure itself a front-row seat at the international negotiation table...

"Russia is the only [country] that has [openly] announced more than once that it has two bases [in Syria]: an airbase in Khmeimim in the Latakia area and a naval base in Tartus, which is its only [base] on the Mediterranean and is planned to be its biggest naval base... According to various sources, Moscow  recently expanded its presence in Damascus, in the rural area east of Homs and in the rural area [near] Aleppo, and there are [also] Russian headquarters in the Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria that are part of the American influence-zone.

"Washington is keeping mum about the location of [its forces] in Syria [that number] over 900 troops. Last week it announced it was dispatching 400 Marines to Syria in order to support local forces in the battle for Al-Raqqa, the stronghold of the ISIS organization. According to reports, the [U.S.] troops that arrived began establishing a military base from which artillery attacks will be made on ISIS positions 32 km away. The U.S. has established its military bases in northern Syria, mostly in the areas controlled by their allies, the Kurdish People's Protection Units.[3] The most prominent of these bases are Rmeilan Base in the northeastern tip [of the country], near the Iraqi border, and a base that has been established in the city of 'Ain Al-Arab (Kobane). According to Kurdish sources, the Americans have other bases in Syria, one of them in Hassakah.

"The single British base in Syria is in near Al-Tanf on Syria's border with Jordan and Iraq, in the Al-Hamad desert region in the southeast of Homs district, 240 km from Palmyra.

"Iran has two military bases [in Syria], one in the Damascus international airport, which is the headquarters of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary  Guards Corps (IRGC) [in Syria], and another in the Azzan Mountain [area] near Aleppo.

"The newest military bases in Syria are apparently the Turkish ones, which are still under construction. They are located in the region controlled by Turkey, which is a 30 km [belt] whose northern [boundary] stretches from Jarabulus to 'Azaz, [and whose southern boundary] stretches from Al-Bab to the municipal borders of Manbij. There is a heavy veil of secrecy over these bases, and consequently there are conflicting reports about them. Kurdish sources stressed to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that there is more than one [Turkish] base in the environs of the towns Al-Ra'i and Akhtarin. The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami 'Abd Al-Rahman, says that there is one base in Al-Ra'i, another in Jarabulus and a third in Sheikh 'Aqil Mountain west of Al-Bab. He says that Syria has effectively become a country under international sponsorship, especially considering that all the above-mentioned counties aspire to expand their military bases [there], 'making the partition of Syria a tangible reality.' In February the Syrian regime appealed to the UN twice [to protest] Turkey's establishment of a military base in Syria... in the north of the town Tel Rifat. [The base] includes weapons depots, officers' barracks and positions of the Euphrates Shield forces. According to anonymous Syrian opposition sources, Ankara has built a military base in Al-Bab, [so] it seems that Turkey has more than one base to consolidate its influence in the northern region.

"According to Dr. 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hajj, an expert on extremist groups, Syria can be said to be divided into three influence zones: American, Russian and Turkish. The American region lies east of the Euphrates and stretches to Deir Al-Zor and the Iraqi border. By means of this [influence zone] the U.S. seeks to undermine the Iranian influence [in Syria] and disrupt Hizbullah's supply lines from Beirut... This paves the way to a federalized state based on an ethnic division and on civil war, a federalized state that can fall apart at any moment.

"Regarding the Iranians, Al-Hajj says: 'The Iranians want the entire state. By means of the [Syrian] regime they control everyday life [in the country], focusing on the strategic zones connecting Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Therefore [in the Iranians' case] we can speak of influence centers, rather than influence zones."



[1] On the possibility of Syria's partition, see MEMRI  Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 887, Pro- And Anti-Assad Camps Share Concerns Over Syria's Possible Disintegration Into Separate Sectarian, Ethnic Entities, September 29, 2016.

[2] A region in north Syria where Turkey, along with Syrian opposition factions allied with it, are conducting Operation Euphrates Shield against ISIS and Kurdish militias. The region extends from the city of Jarabulus on the Syria-Turkey border to Manbij, Al-Bab and north Aleppo. As part of the operation Turkey aims to expand its intervention to north-eastern Syria and to ISIS's stronghold in Al-Raqqa.  

[3] The People's  Protection Units is the military branch of the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD), a party established by Kurdish activists in northern Syria and headed by Saleh Muslim. According to Turkey the party is a Syrian branch of the Turkish PKK.

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