Iran has agreed to fund a new multi-million-dollar military base on the Syrian coast to make it easier to ship weapons and other military hardware between the two countries, according to Western intelligence reports.
Under the terms of the deal, which was concluded after a high-level Syrian delegation visited Tehran, Iran is to assist with the development of a new military compound at Latakia airport which will be completed by the end of next year. The aim of the agreement is to open a supply route that will enable Iran to transfer military hardware directly to Syria.
Western security officials say the deal was agreed following a visit to Tehran in June by Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek,
Syria’s deputy vice-president for security affairs and an ally of President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran and Syria have enjoyed a close strategic alliance for decades, founded on their mutual antipathy towards the West. In return for Iranian military support, Syria has supported Tehran’s attempts to develop the Islamic fundamentalist Hizbollah militia into a major political force in neighbouring Lebanon.
In recent months, Iran has been deeply alarmed at the nationwide protests in Syria against the Assad regime. Western diplomats claim that Iran has been sending riot control equipment, as well as intelligence monitoring techniques and oil, to Damascus to help Mr Assad regain control over his country.
But Iranian efforts to provide clandestine support have suffered several setbacks after Turkish officials intercepted a number of arms shipments destined for Syria.