Why Syria Could Turn Out to Be Iran's Vietnam

(Foreign Policy) Thanassis Cambanis - Lebanese Hizbullah infantry fighters crisscross the "Shiite villages" surrounding the city of Qusayr in Syria. Their rocket and mortar teams target Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters. The thunder of artillery fire in the mountains flanking the Beqaa Valley, like the spate of no-longer-hidden Hizbullah funerals, make clear that Hizbullah and its Iranian sponsors are now fully vested in the Syrian civil war, and they're committed to an open and escalating fight. Today, Iran's involvement in Syria has all the makings of a quagmire. Iran is spending hundreds of millions of dollars propping up Bashar al-Assad's regime. As foreign aid to the rebels escalates, Iran will have to pour in more and more resources simply to maintain a stalemate. In addition, Iran has had to sacrifice most of its other Arab allies on the Syrian altar. Gone are the days when Iran held the mantle of popular resistance. Iran's mullahs finally look to the Arabs as they long have appeared at home - repressive, authoritarian, and fierce defenders of the status quo. Perhaps most importantly, Iran's commitment to Assad has put the crown jewel of its assets in the Arab world, Hizbullah, in danger. Just a few years ago, Nasrallah was the most popular leader in the Arab world. Today, however, Hizbullah has enraged Sunnis across the Arab world by siding with a merciless dictator. The writer is a fellow at The Century Foundation.

2013-05-14 00:00:00

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