Iran Is the Dominant Actor in Syria

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Orit Perlov and Udi Dekel - Iran, and not Russia, has been the dominant actor in Syria. Iran dictates the fighting on the ground by the pro-Assad coalition, controls the Syria-Iraq and Syria-Lebanon border crossings, and tailors the re-organization of areas and communities based on the ethnic element. Iran wields much - and often decisive - influence on the pace of fighting, in consultation with Russia and Assad. Prior to operations by the pro-Assad coalition, first Iranian advisors assess the prospects for successful conquest. Then they meet with Russian liaison officers to coordinate the land and air operation. Military combat forces are then sent into the campaign - Syrian army forces and Shiite militias under Iranian command. Iran is gradually taking over a number of key areas in order to create a contiguous territorial presence between Iran and the Mediterranean Sea, first aiming at the easier portion and then proceeding to the more difficult parts. Iran conceals its control in Syria; it wants to act and influence behind the scenes, while integrating the forces under its command into the country's militias and military governmental framework. Russia is certainly aware that not only are the pro-Iranian Shiite militias not withdrawing from southern Syria, but they are even reinforced there. Presumably the Iranian project in Syria will continue, and forces identified with Iran will be deployed near the border in the Golan Heights under some kind of cover in the near future. It is highly questionable whether Russia and Assad have the will or the capability to get rid of the Iranian presence on Syrian territory, especially in view of the integration of Iranian commanders and Shiite fighters in the local forces. Orit Perlov, a research fellow at INSS, is the former co-editor of the Israel Foreign Ministry website in Arabic. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel is managing director of INSS.

2018-07-27 00:00:00

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