Iran Sends Proxies to Fight in Last Syrian Rebel Province

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Carmit Valensi, Neta Nave, and Ofek Mushkat - Since January, Iran has been beefing up forces in Syria's rebel Idlib province, including units from Hizbullah and other Shiite militias. After the targeted killing of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, Iran wants to relay a message of continued support for Bashar al-Assad, and quash assessments that it intends to reduce its forces and intervention in Syria. It is also possible that Iran wants to redeploy its forces to areas in northern Syria like Idlib in order to reduce potential harm to them from Israeli attacks. The Iranian intervention in Idlib might also be predicated on the assumption that completing the operation there will free up the regime to clean up the area in eastern Syria and thus accelerate the evacuation of American forces there. On Jan. 30, Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said: "The Syrian government and its allies from the resistance front will go from Idlib to the eastern Euphrates to expel the Americans." The Assad regime's main ally in Idlib has been Russia, which has provided broad military and logistical assistance to Syrian military forces. The Russian interest is to end the war in Syria, reduce expenses, and hand full control of the country over to Assad. In addition, Russia has an interest in restoring control of Idlib to the Syrian regime due to its proximity to Latakia, site of the Russian airbase of Khmeimim, which has been hit more than once by fire from local rebels. Until recently, Russia and Syria were satisfied with Iranian abstention from the Idlib campaign, given their interest in lowering the Iranian profile and the Assad regime's dependence on Iran. Yet with the military campaign bogged down and with the growing need to restrain and counter-balance Turkey, the door has opened to Iranian involvement.

2020-02-27 00:00:00

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