The government of Iran and its proxy militia in Lebanon, Hezbollah who have both been backing the Syrian regime of Pres. Bashar al-Assad since the start of the Syrian Civil War are now planning to maintain a permanent presence in Syria in the event of Assad’s fall.
There are an estimated 50,000 militiamen of various nationalities fighting for Assad on behalf of Iran and Hezbollah. When Assad falls these forces are anticipated to decentralize into a network of militias across Syria to maintain a semi state of anarchy, destabilization and civil war in Syria indefinitely.
These very methods were used in Lebanon by Bashar Assad’s father and predecessor Pres. Hafez al-Assad to entrench the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Israel’s border until their defeat by Israel in the 1982 Lebanon War. Syria and Iran resurrected those methods to a degree to entrench Hezbollah’s presence in southern Lebanon after 1982.
Iran faces the prospect of losing all regional relevance if there is no backup plan for the collapse of their ally, Assad. In parallel with their Syrian efforts is Tehran’s courtship of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Pres. Mohamed Morsi.
The recent trip by Iranian Pres. Ahmadinejad to Cairo however, was largely a fruitless effort met with the embarrassment of a ‘shoe attack’ by a Syrian and another by an Egyptian who managed to breach the security detail at the Iranian consulate in Cairo.
Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has failed to export that revolution beyond its own borders. To maintain relevance in the world, Iran forged alliances with predominantly Sunni terrorist organizations which do not closely follow the theology of Iran’s Shiite Mullahs.
Syria’s Assad dynasty is Alawite Muslim which is viewed as an offshoot of Shia Islam. But, they also have never met the ideal of true Islamist beliefs as defined by Tehran. Syrian First Lady Asma Assad’s European education and Western oriented high fashion alone are enough to make the Ayatollah’s beard catch fire.
The fall of Assad would leave Hezbollah to whither on the vine and create a power vacuum in the Levant. The wise among Hezbollah’s ranks are concerned enough that their support for Assad is beginning to publicly wane. The ‘well disciplined’ puppets of Tehran within Hezbollah accuse them of being ‘Jewish agents’. This dispute has now spilled out in the open in Lebanon.
Lurking in the shadows meanwhile is the emerging ‘Sunni axis’ led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been fostering Turkish influence not only across the Levant but has sought to establish a footprint in the Gaza Strip at Iran’s expense.
If Iran and Hezbollah manage to maintain a presence in a post-Assad Syria, it would be another thorn in Israel’s side. But, it would also be a roadblock in the path of Erdogan’s drive to establish Turkish hegemony in the Levant and could lead to Turkish intervention in Syria with or without NATO along for the ride to legitimize it.