Monday, June 20, 2016

Hizballah set to fight ISIS for Euphrates Valley - debkaFile

by debkaFile

The former Israel defense ministers who harangued this week against the Netanyahu government’s alleged “scaremongering” willfully ignored this dangerous development.

Hizballah this week ordered a general military call-up for their biggest combat mission in the Syrian war since their forces began fighting in support of the Assad regime in 2013, debkafile military forces report.

Iran’s Lebanese proxy has been assigned the task of expelling the Islamic State from broad areas it occupied in the Deir ez-Zor region of eastern Syria and, in particular, the Euphrates River valley which connects eastern Syria and western Iraq.

This Hizballah offensive is designed to open the way for the pro-Iranian Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces and the Badar Forces militias which entered the ISIS-held Iraqi town of Fallujah Friday June 17 to move west and up the Iraqi side of the valley. The two militias spearheaded the Fallujah operation under the command of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guards and Ground Corps Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour.

The plan is for Hizballah forces to meet these pro-Iranian militia forces on the Syria-Iraq border and so gain control over the most important strategic land pass between Iraq and Syria.

Whereas the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq are fighting under US air cover, Hizballah is assured of Russian air support in Syria.  And so, for the first time in the Syria conflict and its own history, Hizballah will receive air cover from both the US and Russia, the two superpowers now coordinating their military moves in Syria and Iraq.

This strategy, which essentially connects the Syrian and Iraqi campaigns against ISIS, was charted on June 9, at a secret meeting in Tehran of the Russian, Iranian and Syrian defense chiefs.

debkafile military sources in Washington say that the operation’s plan was put before President Barack Obama and he sanctioned it as part of the war on ISIS.

In the run-up to the Syrian segment of the plan, Hizballah is transferring substantial combat strength from Lebanon into Syria, and emptying its other Syrian fronts, especially around Aleppo, for the large-scale concentration around Palmyra.

The Hizballah force will start out by targeting the Syrian town of Al-Sukhna, 63km south of Palmyra and 136km north of Deir ez-Zor, thus gaining command of M20, the main highway link between northern to eastern Syria. debkafile military sources say that this military offensive by Hizballah against ISIS, with combined US-Russian support, threatens to transform a terrorist organization dedicated to fighting Israel in the service of Iran into one of the most powerful armies in the Middle East. Israel cannot stop this happening. The former Israel defense ministers who harangued this week against the Netanyahu government’s alleged “scaremongering” willfully ignored this dangerous development. They must also be held at least partly accountable for the failure of Israel’s air raids over Syria to diminish Hizballah’s military capabilities.



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