Iran has agreed to fund the construction of a military base in the Syrian port city of Latakia, British newspaper The Telegraph reported on Saturday. According to the report, western intelligence sources claimed the agreement was signed in June during a visit of senior Syrian officials to Tehran, and will be completed by the end of 2012.
The construction of the base, which is estimated to cost millions of dollars, is designed to help the Islamic Republic transfer military equipment directly to Syria, in an apparent bid to help President Bashar Assad cling to power.
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According to the report, "a similar joint command center was set up at Damascus international airport earlier this year, but Latakia is regarded as a more suitable destination as it is not subjected to the same level of international scrutiny as Damascus."
The intelligence sources said the $23 million deal was concluded by Syrian Deputy Vice President Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek – a close ally of President Bashar Assad – and Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force Ghasem Suleimani.
The two agreed that Iran will transfer hundreds of tons of weapons and military hardware to the new base in Latakia via cargo planes that can each transport some 40 tons of freight.
The agreement also calls for Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers to be stationed at the base on a permanent basis, in order to oversee the arms shipments, which are in violation of the sanctions imposed against Iran by the United Nations Security Council.
Western intelligence sources also told The Telegraph that Iran has supplied Syrian authorities with riot control equipment to help quail the wave of protests that have swept the country in recent months. In addition, sources claimed Tehran transferred Damascus intelligence monitoring equipment and oil.
Iran's efforts to help the Syrian president have been met with recent difficulties. Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that Turkey had intercepted an arms shipment from Iran to Syria back in April. In March, Turkish authorities grounded an Iranian cargo plane that was en-route to Syria and was carrying a large shipment of weapons, including some 1,800 mortar shells, 60 AK-47's and 14 machine-guns.
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