Iranian strategy in Syria

Inter Press Service News Agency

Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Assad, and Hezbollah's Nasrallah appear together on a poster in Damascus, Syria.

Article Highlights

  • Iran has conducted an extensive effort to keep Assad in power as long as possible.

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  • Iranian security and intelligence services are assisting the Syrian military in order to preserve Assad’s hold on power.

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  • Iran’s hedging strategy aims to ensure that it can continue to pursue its interests if and when the Assad regime collapses.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use Syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should Assad fall.

The Iranian security and intelligence services are advising and assisting the Syrian military in order to preserve Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power. These efforts have evolved into an expeditionary training mission using Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces, Quds Force, intelligence services, and law enforcement forces.  The deployment of IRGC Ground Forces to conflict abroad is a notable expansion of Iran’s willingness and ability to project military force beyond its borders.

Iran has been providing essential military supplies to Assad, primarily by air.  Opposition gains in Syria have interdicted many ground resupply routes between Baghdad and Damascus, and the relative paucity of Iranian port-visits in Syria suggests that Iran’s sea-lanes to Syria are more symbolic than practical. The air line of communication between Iran and Syria is thus a key vulnerability for Iranian strategy in Syria.  Iran would not be able to maintain its current level of support to Assad if this air route were interdicted through a no-fly zone or rebel capture of Syrian airfields.

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