Demystifying Iranian’s Involvement in the Syria Conflict
The republic of Iran is involved in far-reaching, costly, and integrated activities in Syria to prop president Bashar al-Saad’s regime for as long as possible. At the same time, the country is setting conditions right to ensure it can continue using Syrian territory and assets to protect its regional interests in case Assad leaves power.
A mix of Iranian armed forces and spy agency are giving advisory assistance to the Syrian forces to help the country’s leader remain in power. With time, this approach has become an Iranian expeditionary training operation led by various arms of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The involvement of the IRGC’s Ground Forces in a conflict beyond Iranian’s borders denotes the country’s intention and capacity to assert its military power at the international level.
Iran has also been sending aircraft to deliver stockpiles of weapons to Syria. Syria needs that sort of assistance with several resupply roads connecting Damascus and Baghdad unavailable as militia gain significant ground. The military hardware delivered has injected appreciable impetus into the Syrian forces, helping them win numerous encounters with militia.
Likewise, shabiha troops have also been getting help from Iran to fight in support of Assad. To some extent, Tehran is doing this to gain a hedged position in case of Asaad’s fall or the shrinking of the government’s grip to just Damascus and the coastal enclave of Alawite. Should that come to pass, the militias will appreciate Tehran’s help, and Iran will retain the ability to exercise its military power and operate from inside Syria.
What Iran does in Syria matches the objectives and activities of numerous other armed parties. For example, Hezbollah from Lebanon started playing a direct part in the Syrian conflict as Asaad began to cede control over sections of Syrian territory in 2012. This organization has helped sustain Asaad through its well-drilled military wing, whose activities in Syria mirror the strategic objectives of Tehran.
Certainly, Iran’s activities within Syria are significantly limited due to factors beyond its power. 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. Nevertheless, Tehran is continuously implementing counter-measures to ascertain that any eventual defeat of the Syrian government does not interfere Iran’s strategic regional objectives. Such interests are feasible if Iran is able to operate from certain bases in parts of Syria under rule of friendly groups after the downfall of Asaad, provided that anti-government militias are unable to fully take over all Syrian territories.