Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated militias are building a new bridge over the Euphrates River in eastern Syria to facilitate the movement of fighters and weapons, Syrian activists said.
The new bridge, which will connect villages to the east of the Euphrates with the river's western bank near the Deir Ezzor village of al-Hawiqa, would be a strategic gain for the IRGC and its militias, Syrian journalist Mohammed al-Abdullah said.
The bridge will connect two areas that are "of paramount importance" for the IRGC, he told Al-Mashareq, and will enable fighters to move freely and transfer ammunition between them without being detected.
In the past, he added, river crossings were either "via a ferry that also was used by civilians, or across a bridge where Russia has a security presence".
Al-Abdullah did not rule out the possibility that Iran would partially open the bridge to civilians "to camouflage its activities and project the impression that it is a civilian bridge to prevent it from being targeted with military strikes".
The IRGC is camouflaging most of its Deir Ezzor sites in the same way, he said.
"The IRGC, in a bid to curry favour with the residents of villages on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates, previously operated a ferry to transport citizens, goods and foodstuffs," Syrian activist Ayham al-Ali said.
"The construction of the bridge is almost complete, and IRGC elements were observed crossing it on foot and in light-weight civilian vehicles between the two banks," he said.
The bridge consists of three sections, two of which are embankments made of compacted soil and stones and reinforced with concrete, each 50 metres long. The bridge will be 220 metres long.
Joint Syrian-Iranian project
"Two IRGC teams built the embankments," al-Ali said. "The Syrian government, through the General Company for Roads and Bridges, built the steel section [in the middle]."
According to the Syrian regime, he said, the bridge is "a joint Iranian-Syrian project in service of civilians".
The new bridge connecting the two banks of the Euphrates can reportedly bear loads of at least 80 tonnes, said military expert Wael Abdul-Muttalib.
This means the IRGC will be able to transport any type of medium- and long-range missiles across the river, if it so chooses, he said.
"Without any doubt, after coming under numerous air strikes over the past period, the IRGC now heavily relies on camouflage and the constant repositioning of its posts to reduce its losses," Abdul-Muttalib said.
"This bridge will provide it with additional capabilities to hide its weapon depots on both banks," he said.
Due to the area's proximity to the border, he cautioned, the IRGC's Iraqi militias will benefit from the bridge -- not just its militias in Syria.
The construction of this bridge "is a clear indication of Iran's determination to keep this area under its full control", he said, and even reinforce it with additional capabilities.