In the Pervious article, we handled the Iranian tyranny, its tools, and means as a real occupier of Iraq. We also discussed the nonstop conflicts in Iraq that have created not a new, but a torn out country through its support to the Shiite Militias, and sending military and paramilitary personnel in a way that contributed to the ISIS invasion of some vital Iraqi provinces. Iraq is now a broken down country. There is no existence to a unified Iraq, and there are calls for dividing it into weak entities. Iraq has turned into a safe shelter for terrorist groups as a result of the bloody sectarian conflicts between its components. Iraq occupies an important position in the Iranian strategy in the region not only on the political level but also on the religious one. Iran doesn’t want to miss any opportunity in Iraq whether now or in the future. Current events in the region make Iran give Iraq more attention, which raises fears of an “Iranian future to come”; this is evident through the Iranian aggressive practices not only in Iraq but also in other countries of the region such as Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
♦ Episode Two (2-3): The Syrian complicated scene until the mid of 2016
The American war on terrorism contributed to enhancing the Iranian position as an influential and international power. In the beginning of 2011, the Arab spring erupted and most Arab countries got into their internal affairs, giving Iran the opportunity to implement its plans and ambitions. It tried to dominate the whole region and be the major player, in addition to being the only effective power in the region to reshape the Arab countries in a way that serves its own interests.
Syria is one of the targeted Arab countries by Iran as a launch point for the Iranian strategy. In this episode, we’ll handle the Syrian conditions after the Iranian interference in the civil war since the eruption of the Arab spring revolutions. We will also discuss the future of the Iranian role. The Syrian crisis has become more complicated day after day in light of difficult regional and international conditions as well as the clashes between insurgents and Bashar Assad’s forces.
Tehran Mullahs give no attention to the staying of Assad regime or not, but do care about Syria only because of its strategic location at the sectarian Safavid territories; the Shiite Crescent, which is an expansion imperialist project just like the American, European, and Israeli ambitions. The Iranian influence extends from Iraq that is ruled by Haider Al-Abadi; the Iranian loyalist, through Syria under the rule of the Alawi regime who acts agent of Iran; his savior, to Lebanon under the domination of Hizbullah; the Iranian puppet, up to the Arab Gulf. This project of expansion was launched by the succession of Ahmadinejad to office in August 2003 through initiating the “Fifth Development Plan” in the “Twelfth Dimension” which is a twenty-year plan based on sectarian bases, and to move Iran to the first regional position by the year 2025 on all levels. The target region for this plan is Southwest Asia, which includes middle Asia and Kokazia, and the Middle East and neighboring countries. Geographically, Iran is engaged with the Arab world through two basic territories, the Middle East and the Arab Gulf.
The importance of Syria to Iran lies in its location in the heart of the Middle East. It serves the Iranian broad strategy in the region as a vital point of contact between Iran and Hizbullah; a production of the revolution and the most important member of the Axis of resistance against Israel and the western ambitions in the region. Syria also protects the passage of weapons to Lebanon on one hand, and confronts, according to the Iranian strategy, the regional Arab Axis that aims to contain the growing geopolitical influence of Iran on the other. Consequently, Syria is considered the backbone of the Iranian strategy. This is evident in the shocking statement of the Iranian clerk Mahdi Taleb in 2014 about the importance of the Syria, saying, “in the case of any offensive attack of any enemy to take Syria or Khozistan province, our priority will be defending Syria. If we preserve Syria, then we can take Khozistan back. But if we lose Syria, we can’t even preserve Tehran”. This statement is an evidence for the Iranian imperialism. Iran is used to the exploitation of crises to fulfill its own interests at the expense of innocent people and bloodshed. It is using the Syrian crisis through its militias to establish the Syrian Hizbullah as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards corps arm that suffocates the Syrian state and society on the model of the Iranian Hizbullah in Lebanon. Former commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps General Hussein Hamdani, engineer of the Iranian domination over Syria, declared before his assassination in Aleppo in 2015 that Iran is fighting in Syria to defend the interests of its revolution, considering that war against the Syrian Free Army is no less important than war against Iraq in 1980-1988, and that his country can deploy 130 thousand of its mobilization forces, Besiege in Syria. He also declared the establishment of the Syrian Hizbullah, stressing that Lebanon and Syria represent the front lines of Iran.
The Iranian support for the regime of Bashar Assad since five years ago is a tactical objective resulted from the Iranian not gaining any role in the New Syria same as the other international parties in the Syrian crisis, especially the US and Russia, which has extended the crisis.
All international and regional parties involved in the Syrian crisis, including Iran, care neither about the Syrian regime in particular nor the sectarian identity of the future rulers of Syria. Their positions rely on protecting their interests and expansion projects in the region. To Russia, stick to Bashar Assad president of Syria guarantees maintaining its military bases in the city of Tartus on the Mediterranean sea, which represents the Russian presence and influence in the region. The US position supports Iran in rejecting any military intervention on the Libyan model for many reasons. The first is that Syria doesn’t represent a threat to the American interests in the region, especially oil since Syria has huge amounts of oil reserve. The second one is that Syria is not a trade partner of the US, which makes Washington disregard the massacres of the Syrian regime against its own people. Those massacres have never moved the sensation of the US since this issue has no impact on its interests. Syria has never been a threat to the US interests, so, Washington is trying to stay in contact with the opposition through providing it with the minimum amount of support. But with the continuation of the sectarian civil war in Syria and its transformation to the neighboring countries, and the possibility of the Iranian exploitation of the Syrian conditions in threatening the Zionist and American interests, the US will be obliged to intervene in Syria.
Hence, we can understand the dishonorable Iranian interference in Syria politically, economically, and militarily. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis five years ago, Tehran has been assisting the Syrian regime through its alliance with Russia in order to preserve this regime and extends its life. Thousands of military and paramilitary fighters equipped with the latest weapons were sent to Syria to confront the Syrian Free Army, and billions of dollars are being transferred as loans to help the regime buy weapons. In addition to that, Iran contributed to the establishment of the National Defense Army that amounts to fifty thousand fighters of Assad loyalists, especially from the Alawi Shiite.
The Iranian support for the Syrian regime comes from a sectarian dimension. Tehran Mullahs have first mobilized the Syrian Shiite and enlisted them in the Assad’s irregular forces through the claims of defending the Shiite Shrines. They also gave the Lebanese Hezbollah the green light to directly support the regime in war by sending thousands of Hezbollah fighters that openly entered Syria. The Iranians also arranged to bring their Shiite loyalist militias from Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and from other countries to use them in battles against the Syrian people. Those fighters have shown their religious and sectarian reasons for coming to Syria.
Some observers in the Syrian affair noted that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Qasem Suleimani has become the true ruler of Syria and the determiner of its present and future. He also directs the movement of Assad and his senior assistants. He gives orders in the form of recommendations that are adopted by the Syrian leadership with no hesitation. Suleimani is also leading the military operations on the Syrian ground where senior officers of the Syrian security agencies work under the command of his assistants.
In an analytical view, Iran has rooted some factors in Syria and the Middle East in general. It has created a military reality that can’t be surpassed especially after the domination of the Syrian strategic location that extends from Damascus, the capital up to the coast. This territory, in fact, is the heart of the Middle East. Its mountainous geography makes it oversee and control the major parts of the Middle East; mainly, Lebanon, vital parts of Israel, and even southern Turkey. In addition to that, it has created a corridor that connects Iraq through eastern Hums countryside as one firm unit that provides logistic support from Tehran up to Soor in southern Lebanon.
According to the Syrian geographical nature, the aforementioned territories are the heart of Syria because they control the transportation routes in the whole country and are the biggest inhabited parts of Syria. They are also considered strategic terrains for military operations. In addition to that, they contain two major water bodies, Barada and Al Asi. In other words, in the classical concept of war, they are considered fallen territories.
The most important Iranian victory in Syria is penetrating the Syrian political regime and turning it into an internal Iranian entity just like any other Iranian administrative component. It is openly stated that Tehran has devoted constant budget under the name of the Syrian regime, including all running expenses, and military requirements. So, it is normal that an Iranian leader says “Syria has become province 35 of Iran”.
The Iranian penetration to Syria resulted from its military involvement and leading of battlefield after the collapse of Assad’s control over the country. A year after the revolution, all military and security organizations were torn out and about to collapse. This appeared in 2012 when the revolutionary battalions blockaded Damascus. At that time, the Syrian leadership was deprived of its authorities and turned into a decoration for photography after each battle. Iran took over the battlefield in Syria in terms of planning and implementing up to the point that some districts were prohibited to any Syrian whatever he is including Assad forces. The evidence is the declaration Hassan Nasrallah when he acknowledged that by saying, “Had we not interfered, Syria would have fallen down in the first week”. In addition to that, the Iranians stated that Assad is staying only because of the Iranian will.
♦ The Syrian conditions resulting from the Iranian role in the crises, nonstop conflicts, and attritional stagnation
Although the Syrian crisis parties vary; regionally, Iran, Turkey, and some Arab countries ; and internationally, the US and Russia, Iran is considered the real occupier of Syria through the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Al-Quds Army, and its loyal Shiite agents more than to their homeland countries. When we look at Syria after five years of civil war, we come up with a complicated crisis and nonstop conflicts which have turned into a stage of attritional stagnation. We find a torn out country flooded with killing and bloodshed. Syria, as a unified country is gone. The weak and scattered entities are either under siege and starving or dominated by the Iranian-supported organizations. Following are the most prominent nonstop conflicts and the Syrian conditions after five years of the Iranian interference:
1.Bloody sectarian civil war in all Syrian cities.
Since the beginning of the Arab spring revolutions, war has been happening between two sides in Syria. The first side is the Syrian opposition that includes: the Syrian National Coalition, the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Frontier, Halab Fatih, Almujahideen Walansar Coalition, Ansar Aldin, Frontier, and the Turkmani Islamic Party. This side believes that the Syrian uprising is against the absolute tyranny and corruption of the regime that has been ruling Syria since 1971 under the totalitarian Ba’ath party and emergency laws since 1963.
The other side of supporters is the Syrian Armed Forces, National Defense Forces, Kata’eb Al-BaathKata’eb, Fatimi Brigade, Abo al Fadl Al Abbas, the Syrian Resistance, the Arab National Guards, and Al Mujahideen Army. The regime believes that this is an international conspiracy against the Arab Axis of resistance and to create chaotic conditions in Syria through extremists and terrorists in favor of Israel.
At the first level, War took a sectarian dimension when Iran and its allies got involved and called all Arab Shiite forces to join and support Assad in a completely unethical stance. The majority of the nation took a unanimous stand in supporting the Arab spring in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Libya without getting into the sectarian dimension that could have burned the region starting from Bagdad to Damascus up to the Gulf and the whole region when in a case of a call for Sunni mobilization.
The Iranian support to Assad is an obligation not because of his identity and belonging. He is secular and doesn’t consider religion in any way. In fact, the relation between both sides is based on interest and political matters; although, this doesn’t explain the Iranian position without recognizing the sectarian issue. This appears when comparing the Iranian position on Syria with that on Bahrain and Yemen which can be explained only from the sectarian perspective through the Iranian attempt to be an advocate to all Shiite all over the world. The use of sectarianism wasn’t confined to Sunnis and Alawis. Iran has used the difficult social conditions of the Christian community and has lured more than 1500 individuals to join the army during the second year of the revolution. Iran also has turned the Christian-majority city of Mahraba in the northern countryside of Hamah into a military base, using some churches and monasteries as military installations. It established more than fifteen barricades at the entrances of the city that has become the regime’s frontline in bombing the neighboring cities making the Syrian Free Army and Jabhat Al Nusra respond by bombardment of the city which made the Christian community in direct confrontation with the opposition forces
2. Calls for dividing Syria
As a result of the sectarian conflict and the complex situation of the crisis, many regional and international parties called for dividing Syria. This trend will weaken and tear out the country just to fulfill each one’s plans and ambitions and gets its share of the Syrian pie. The conflict is now going on between many major powers each of who dominates certain area as follows: A. the regime has control over some strategic territories and holds 23% of Syria; which are considered the most important Syrian terrain that includes Damascus, Hums, Hamah, Idlib and the whole Syrian West. B. the Kurdish Democratic Union Party; an alliance of the regime, is in control of the northern part of Hasakah province and complete control of Efren in the northwest in cooperation with the regime forces. C. the ISIS controls three-fourths of the lands liberated by insurgents in addition to the whole Syrian eastern part except those parts under control of the Kurds in Hasakah. The IS has also expanded to the middle of Syria through dominating Tadmor, after the retreat of the regime forces. The IS loss of some cities like the Kurdish Kobaniin northern Syria resulted from the air strikes and the ground battles of the Kurds. D. Revolutionary force and Jabaht Al Nusrah. The territories they dominate have receded. They now dominate almost 15% of Syria including the southern part of Horan, Koneitrah province, and parts of Damascus and its countryside; the blockaded territories in eastern Damascus eastern and western Schwings, Southern Damascus and Kalamon, in addition to Homs northern countryside, Kurds mountain, Idleb countryside, parts of Aleppo, and western Aleppo countryside.
3.The Birth of ISIS
In response to the major offensive of Hizbullah and the Shiite militias on Sunni cities that resulted in the fall of Alquseir and some other neighboring villages, in addition to the war of attrition launched by the regime on Sunnis, the conflict turned into sectarian rather than revolutionary. Thousands of Arab Mujahideen were headed to Syria to meet their religious obligation, as they claim, and defend their Sunni brothers. In 2012, the estimated number of those Mujahideen was about ten thousand in addition to Al-Qaeda and other Jihadi groups. The worst development in the history of the Syrian revolution was the birth of the ISIS in April 2013. It expanded and took control of big parts of Aleppo, Idlib, Hasakah, and Deir Alzor provinces after being totally liberated.
In 2014, IS witnessed an unexpected expansion. It expelled the Syria Free Army in January 2014 from Al Raqqa and claimed it the Caliphate capital. It also controlled almost all territories of the oil-productive province of Deir Alzor, in addition to many oil and gas fields in Hasakah in northeastern Syria on the borders with Turkey and Iraq, and Al Baghdadi city near Al Assad Air Force Base. Until the mid of 2014, the IS assumed control of 35% of the Syrian lands in one connected geographic mass. That extends from Hums Badia to the Houl on the Syrian-Iraqi borders to the east of Hasakah up to Al Rae’i town on the Syrian-Turkish borders, in addition to Shamir village near the northern entrance of Aleppo, representing all territories liberated by the opposition forces from the regime at the first three years of the revolution. The ISIS has preserved its sphere of influence in Syria which means that the Russian intervention was not against the IS but against the Syrian opposition forces and the Syrian Free Army.
4. Unorganized mass exodus to safe refuges (Refugees Crisis)
The bloody sectarian civil war and its regional parties especially death dealers, Iran, the US, and Russia in Syria resulted in a humanitarian and existence crisis through refugees. It exerts pressure on the decision makers in the Arab world. The three-year-old Syrian child, Ilan Kurdi’s picture on the coast of Turkey headed the international media in September 2015. The year 2016 recorded four million internal refugees and eight million in Arab and European countries out of the 22 million Syrians as follows: more than one million in Jordan, more than one million in Lebanon, 150 thousands in Egypt, 250 thousands in Iraq, 25 thousands in Algeria, two million in Turkey, 16 thousands in America, 106 thousands in Germany, 88 thousands in Greece, 44 thousands in Sweden, 18 thousands in Austria, and 5 thousands in the UK, in addition to the unrecorded tens of thousands of refugees, 227 are waiting registration, and three thousand people are recorded lost on the European Union borders. Moreover, they are exposed to harassment and discomfort, which sometimes turn into violence just like what happened in Germany in September 2015 of fabricated fires. This lead to threats, assault and demonstrations in Haidenao in Saksonia eastern Germany, which made the German Counselor Angela Merkel make the first visit to a refugee camp.
This mass migration is the biggest since WWII. It is characterized by a critical phenomenon which is the evacuation of Syria in light of the eight million refugees who escaped war and destruction, and terrorist attacks.
5. Hundreds of thousands of casualties, killed, wounded, and arrested.
The UNHCR statistics records show that there are about 250 casualties for this war and tens of thousands arrested. What has made the situation worse is the Russian alliance with Iran in October 2015 to preserve Assad and eliminate the Syrian opposition but not the ISIS as declared? The evidence is the Russian air strikes that are concentrated on the opposition parties in Talbeesah, Rastan, Latmanah and the countryside of Hamah that don’t compel to the ISIS. The first victims of those strikes were civilians. In addition to that, the Russian strikes on Idleb and Aleppo are clear evidence that the target is the opposition forces rather than the IS, which is being used as an excuse for the Russian interference in Syria. All of this brings back the Bosnian scenario two decades ago where a sectarian war erupted between orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Muslim Bosnians when Sarajevo, the gathering point of all ethnic groups was destroyed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of casualties. History is now repeating itself in Syria. Aleppo was bombed in the same barbarous way. Assad’s gangsters and the Iranian militias are committing the same crimes of killing, rape, and torture in the Sunni territories on the model of the Serbian leaders. What makes the two scenes similar, is the international position that adopted no action and watching only.
♦ The future of the Syrian crisis and the Iranian role
Finally, because of the strategic location of Syria as a vital part of the Shiite crescent, and the Iranian attempts to play the key role in the “New Syria” this crisis is continuing and getting worse. More destruction, killing, and refugees will take place. If Assad leaves office without gaining this crucial role, it doesn’t mean the end of war or even any minimum amount of stability. The Alawi sect with the help of Iran will try its best to preserve conflict not in favor of Assad, but to preserve its interests. Consequently, the Alawi sect might appoint a successor to Assad that continues the war against insurgents. Hence, Iran will have a prominent role in the Syrian future in all cases that enable it to comfortably negotiate its role in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. So it is not a point of surprise that the Iranians declare that Syria is more important than Ahwaz.
In case rebels gain control of most Syrian cities, there is a possibility that Alawis move to the countryside and western coast to launch attacks against the new regime. It can be said that the elimination of Assad regime will by no means be the final stage of the war, but the beginning of a new one since the emerging powers will reshape the future and launch campaigns of terminating former regime supporters, disregarding not only the US but also the whole international community. ( 3-3 )