Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is completing construction work on a new border crossing in the Albu Kamal area of Deir Ezzor province that will link Syria with Iraq, a local activist said.
The IRGC also controls the official crossing between the two countries, Deir Ezzor activist Jamil al-Abed told Diyaruna.
"Construction work the IRGC started a while ago on a new land border crossing between Syria and Iraq located near the official border crossing is now close to completion," al-Abed said.
Syrian regime forces have no presence at either the official or the new crossing, he said, noting that construction work began when IRGC-affiliated militias began expanding their presence in the area about four months ago.
Al-Abed said he has learned the crossing is almost ready to begin operations.
The complex includes small buildings surrounded by a fence, he said, as well as warehouses and storage yards.
Building a land bridge
Opening a new crossing that links Syria with Iraq will further the IRGC's dream of establishing a land bridge that links Iran with the Mediterranean, said Al-Sharq Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies researcher Fathi al-Sayed.
It seems the IRGC wants to complete work on this crossing quickly, in order to open a safe new outlet through which to smuggle goods and oil after being slapped with sanctions, said al-Sayed, who specialises in Iranian affairs.
It also is a pre-emptive move to circumvent new sanctions that may deprive it of access to maritime routes, he told Diyaruna.
The crossing is cause for concern as it is likely to facilitate the flow of weapons to Lebanon's Hizbullah and other IRGC-affiliated armed groups in Syria, he said.
Al-Sayed said the crossing relieves the Syrian regime of accountability, since the smuggling operations are taking place outside the area under its control.
"Syrian forces have even withdrawn from the official border crossing in the area," he said, adding that it is possible they will return to it once the new crossing becomes operational.