by Seth G. Jones
May 15, 2019
This commentary is part II of the CSIS Transnational Threats Project’s Iran satellite imagery analysis series. Part I focuses on the Imam Ali training facility in Iran, which can be found here:www.csis.org/ imam-ali. For further analysis, please see, “War by Proxy: Iran’s Growing Footprint in the Middle East,” which can be found here: www.csis.org/war-by-proxy.
There is growing Iranian activism in the Middle East despite U.S. and allied efforts to weaken Iran’s economy and politically isolate Tehran. But Iran’s primary military instrument is not its conventional army, air force, or navy, which are relatively weak. Instead, Iran has provided significant resources and power to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC- QF). The IRGC-QF is Iran’s main irregular force and is instrumental in helping Iran expand its influence in the Middle East and other regions. It engages in a wide range of activities, such as gathering intelligence; training, equipping, and funding state and non-state partner forces; conducting assassinations and bombings; perpetrating cyberattacks; and providing humanitarian and economic aid. The IRGC-QF has partners in countries like Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bahrain.
In an effort to better understand IRGC-QF and broader Iranian activities, this analysis examines satellite imagery of the El Boqaa training facility in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. In Lebanon, the IRGC-QF’s chief partner, Hezbollah, has improved its military capabilities and become more involved in the government. Iran has provided money, equipment, training, and ideological inspiration to Lebanese Hezbollah. Commercial satellite imagery acquired in 2019 highlights a training facility in southern Lebanon, located southeast of the town of Beit Moubarak, on the eastern and southern slopes of El Boqaa.