Terrorism

IRGC establishes training base in Lebanon: US

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Intelligence reports indicate the IRGC has established a base near Bayt Mubarak on Lebanon's eastern border. The nearby village of al-Nabi Sheeth, seen here, is known to be a Hizbullah stronghold. [Photo courtesy of al-Nabi Sheeth  municipality]

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has set up a military base at a Hizbullah facility in Bayt Mubarak on Lebanon's eastern border, opposite Syria's al-Zabadani, the US State Department alleges in a recent video.

The site, in the Hermel-Bekaa region, is being used by the IRGC's Quds force (IRGC-QF) to provide training on the use of armoured personnel carriers (APCs), according to a video the department shared in a May 14th social media post.

Lebanon's Hizbullah has been conducting training at the facility for its forces as well as for IRGC-QF fighters and affiliated militias, experts told Al-Mashareq.

The militia seeks to use its combat experience to serve Iran amid the current tension between the US and Iran, which has seen the US dispatch a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Arabian Gulf, they said.

This move came in response to intelligence reports indicating that Iran is moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard civilian boats in Gulf waters, with intelligence from various sources indicating Iran's readiness to launch strikes against US targets.

"This facility located near the Lebanese-Syrian border is not new," Lebanese security expert Naji Malaeb told Al-Mashareq.

It is located between two mountains within a triangle formed by the villages of Janta, Yahfouf and Maaraboun on the western slope of Lebanon's eastern mountain range, he told Al-Mashareq.

"Hizbullah has set up exclusive training facilities in that unpopulated area," he said, noting that the region is the main route for the transfer of arms as well as trainees from Syria into Lebanon.

Military training for militias

"The facility is a main base for the military training Hizbullah conducts for its fighters and fighters of groups such as the IRGC-QF," Malaeb said.

The facility "was known to international intelligence agencies", he said, but in a recent development, it was found that Hizbullah has been training Palestinian and Iraqi fighters there under the direct supervision of the IRGC.

This is part of Hizbullah's efforts to "serve the Iranian agenda", he said, noting that the militia has received significant funding from Iran.

The facility "is the largest of Hizbullah’s above and underground facilities", said Future Movement leader and former Lebanese MP Mouin Merehbi.

The militia has used it to train its forces, as well as Iran-aligned factions of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and Yemen's Houthis (Ansarallah), which also are backed by Iran, he told Al-Mashareq.

Iran is trying, through Hizbullah, "using the financial, military and organisational capabilities that Iran has provided it with, to undermine stability and harm the US’s interests and allies and the international community", he said.

Serving Iran's interests

The Bayt Mubarak facility "is not the first that Hizbullah has set up in Lebanon’s eastern mountain range, as it has many training facilities and centres in remote areas", said political affairs researcher Nizar Abdul Qader.

"The party is training its elements and recruiting elements from here and there to serve Iran and its interests," he told Al-Mashareq.

Hizbullah is building combat and military experience, he said, "and IRGC units are benefitting from this experience".

The militia is under the command of the IRGC "and serves all Iranian interests in exchange for money and political support", Abdul Qader noted.

It seeks to "serve Iran at a time when the region is gripped by security tension that compelled the US to dispatch reinforcements to respond to the Iranian threats", he said.

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