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on 03/05/2018

What Exactly is Iran Doing in Syria?

In Syria, Iran is working extensively and spending heavily on choreographed efforts meant to minimize the possibility of president Bashar al-Saad falling from power any time soon. All together, the nation is busy creating the perfect circumstances under which it may retain the capability to exploit the Syrian territory and resources to safeguard its regional interests if the Assad’s regime falls.

The Iranian security agencies and intelligence units are currently advising the Syrian armed forces regarding how to keep Bashar al-Saad in office. With time, this approach has become an Iranian expeditionary training operation led by various arms of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). That Iran has deployed the IRGC’s Ground Forces to war overseas is a clear indicator of how willing and capable the country has become to project its military might outside its borders.

Iran is also sending a lot of military supplies in support of the Syrian regime, particularly via the air. This help has proved meaningful with various restocking routes on the ground between Baghdad and Damascus having been shut by the advancing opposition. The military supplies have played a major role in any significant strides that the Syrian army has made against the enemy.

Likewise, shabiha troops have also been getting help from Iran to fight in support of Assad. This move may be somehow inspired by the need to counter any collapse of Asaad or narrowing of his territory to Alawite–a coastal enclave, and the country’s capital. Such an outcome would be beneficial to both the militias and Tehran, with Iran preserving some space within Syria, from which it may act and project its military force.

There are other military missions in Syria with interests and strategies aligned to Iranian operations. For instance in 2012, Hezbollah from Lebanon got actively involved in the Syrian conflict once anti-government militia started gaining ground in the country. This organization has helped sustain Asaad through its well-drilled military wing, whose activities in Syria mirror the strategic objectives of Tehran.

Evidently, circumstances beyond the control of Iran have meant that the country’s influence over Syria is constrained. There’s also a high chance that the end of the conflict and fall of Asaad would deal a major blow to Iran’s ability to project military force. However, Iran is establishing counter-measures so that, if and when Asaad cedes power, it can continue chasing its strategic interests in the region. This strategy borders on the use of certain Syrian territories under the control of pro-regime or pro-Tehran groups after the fall of Assad, assuming that rebels will fail to set up full control over the entire country.

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