Iran's Revolutionary Guards
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Reuters

Iran is establishing a permanent military base inside Syria, a Western intelligence source told the BBC on Friday.

The Iranian military is said to have established a compound at a site used by the Syrian army outside El-Kiswah, located 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus.

Satellite images commissioned by the BBC seem to show construction activity at the site referenced by the intelligence source between January and October this year.

The images shows a series of two dozen large low-rise buildings,- likely for housing soldiers and vehicles.

In recent months, additional buildings have been added to the site. However, it is impossible to independently verify the purpose of the site and the presence of the Iranian military, noted the BBC.

An official from another Western country told the British network that ambitions for such a long-term presence in Syria would not be illogical for Iran.

Iran is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and has been providing him with both financial aid and military advisors against a range of opposing forces.

Near the start of the Syrian civil war, it was reported that then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

A senior Iranian commander said several months ago that Iran will provide military advisors to Syria for as long as necessary and stressed that “the advisory help isn't only in the field of planning but also on techniques and tactics.”

In August, photos from an Israeli satellite imaging company showed that Iran has been building a Scud missile factory near the Syrian city of Baniyas, south of Latakia.

With a significant number of members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fighting in Syria, there has already been a significant presence in the country but the question is now whether they are preparing to remain in the long term, noted the BBC.

The images of the base do not reveal any signs of large or unconventional weaponry, which means if it was a base it would most likely be to house soldiers and vehicles. One source said it was possible that senior Iranian military officials may have visited the compound in recent weeks.

Independent analysis of the images commissioned by the BBC says the facility is military in nature. The analysis also suggests there are a series of garages that can hold six to eight vehicles each. It is not clear, however, whether the facility is currently occupied.