Iran has been forced to change the course of a land corridor to the Mediterranean coast due to growing US military presence. The new corridor, reported the Guardian, has been moved 140 miles south to avoid a build-up of US forces that has been assembled to fight Daesh.
It’s believed that the changes were ordered by Major General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force, and Haidar Al-Ameri, the leader of the Popular Mobilisation Front in Iraq whose Shia-dominated forces have edged closer to the Iraqi town of Ba’aj, a key link in the planned route and where the Daesh leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is known to have been based for much of the past three years.
For several years, Iran has been attempting to carve out areas of influence across Iraq and Syria. But the unpredictable nature of the Syrian conflict has made it more difficult to secure its interest, forcing Tehran to change some of its plans.
The US build-up in north-eastern Syria has alarmed officials in Baghdad and Tehran. Senior Iraqi sources told the Guardian that Iranian leaders believe the stepped-up presence aims to deter Tehran’s ambitions.
In response they are doing all they can to make this corridor happen as quickly as they can… That means finishing off Ba’aj as quickly as they can, then kicking out ISIS [Daesh] from Mayadin and Deir ez-Zor. They want to do this before the Americans get there.
a senior Iraqi official said.
Shia militias under Iranian direction have carved out different legs of the route with the support of minority communities like the Kurdish PKK. Kurdish PKK fighters, who had travelled from Turkey, had been central to securing a leg from Mount Sinjar to the Syrian border, but the change in course has taken the corridor to the south.
Iraqi officials were reported to have said that the newly chosen route is from Deir ez-Zor to Sukhna to Palmyra, then Damascus, and towards the Lebanese border, where the central goal of emboldening Hezbollah could partially be achieved through demographic swaps. From there, a path to Latakia and the Mediterranean Sea has also been envisaged, giving Iran a supply line that avoids the heavily patrolled Arabian Gulf waters.