How Iran Used the Hizbullah Model to Dominate Iraq and Syria

(New York Times) Ranj Alaaldin - Iran has increased its influence in the Middle East since the eruption of the Syrian civil war, mobilizing tens of thousands of Hizbullah fighters and other Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight alongside the forces of Syrian President Assad. Over the past two years, these Iranian proxies led the fight to take back cities like Homs and areas around Damascus. But these Iranian proxies do not just turn up for battle, fight and return home. As in Iraq, Iran's proxies in Syria have, in the areas they control, forced out populations that are not Shiite or do not support Iran. The transformation of wartime militias into prominent political actors is exemplified by the evolution of Shiite militias in Iraq into versions of Lebanon's Hizbullah. Hizbullah's "state within a state" status in Lebanon is a model that is being replicated by other militia groups with devastating impact. Iran will almost certainly transform its proxies in Syria into fully entrenched components of whatever political system emerges from the ruins of conflict. The U.S. can alter the course of events if it nurtures long-term partnerships to ensure that the fate of Syria and the region is not left to Iran and its proxies. The writer is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

2018-03-30 00:00:00

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