Iran smuggles weapons into Syria via pilgrim convoys

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been smuggling weapons to its proxy militias in Syria and Lebanon by land, via the Iraqi border with Syria, in convoys carrying Shia pilgrims, local journalists said.

In early July, reporters with Eye of the Euphrates observed dozens of buses entering Syria from Iraq, media network spokesman Nawras al-Arfi told Al-Mashareq.

A number of the buses, closely guarded by Iran-affiliated militiamen, were transporting Iraqi and Iranian civilians to religious sites, such as Ain Ali shrine near Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province and Sayyida Zainab in Damascus, he said.

It was suspicious, al-Arfi said, that the buses did not enter Syria by way of al-Qaim/Albu Kamal border crossing, which is the normal route into Syria.

Instead, they entered via the village of al-Heri, near Albu Kamal, which is an irregular border crossing used by IRGC commanders and militias, he said.

Convoy routes

Eye of the Euphrates journalists followed the routes the convoys had taken, which led them to the headquarters of Iran-aligned militias in western Syria.

Here they saw passengers disembark from the buses, and witnessed shipments of weapons and missiles being unloaded, al-Arfi said.

“A number of convoys completed their journey through the Syrian desert (Badiya) and reached the capital, Damascus,” he said.

It appears the missiles they were transporting were later smuggled into Lebanon and handed over to Hizbullah, he added, noting that the IRGC and its proxies have used this method of smuggling in the past.

In June, Iran-aligned militiamen brought a shipment of weapons from Iraq into Syria with a convoy of female pilgrims, and forbade anyone from searching them, al-Arfi said.

Eye of the Euphrates reported that the recent arms shipments “contained sophisticated weapons and advanced medium- and long-range missiles”.

A number of convoys first unloaded weapons in al-Katf district, Albu Kamal, where the most important militia bases and warehouses are situated, he said.

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