Bashar Al-Assad
Bashar Al-AssadReuters

The US has intelligence that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has agreed to provide the Hezbollah terrorist organization with a Russian-made missile defense system, CNN reported on Thursday, citing two people familiar with the intelligence.

According to the report, Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, which operates in Syria, has been tasked with carrying out the delivery of the surface-to-air SA-22 missile system.

It is not clear whether it has already been delivered or how close it is to delivery. The system was originally provided by Russia for use by the Syrian government, the sources said.

One of the sources said the US has been monitoring recent movement of the system, which is also known as a Pantsir. The other source said the US assessment was based partly on intelligence obtained about discussions among Assad, Wagner, and Hezbollah about the delivery of the system.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Thursday that Wagner may provide the system to Hezbollah. Assad’s role has not been previously reported.

Wagner and Hezbollah fighters have both operated in Syria for years, where they have been working alongside Russian and Syrian armed forces to bolster the Assad regime against the Syrian opposition.

The possibility that Hezbollah could soon have a new air defense system comes amid concerns that it is considering opening a new front in Israel’s war on Hamas, on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

It is not clear how much influence Russia had over the decision to provide the system to Hezbollah, according to CNN. Since the death of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in August, the Kremlin has made some attempts to absorb Wagner mercenaries and the group’s assets. But as of late September, the US had not seen a decisive shift in terms of the Kremlin taking full ownership over the fighters, CNN previously reported.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is scheduled to give a major speech on Friday that intelligence officials will be watching closely for signals about the group’s intentions, one official said.