Southern Syria Deal Fails to Constrain Iran, Al-Qaeda

(Institute for the Study of War) Genevieve Casagrande, Patrick Hamon, and Bryan Amoroso - The "de-escalation zone" in Syria brokered by the U.S, Russia, and Jordan will ultimately allow Iran to preserve its safe haven in Southern Syria. Iran and Lebanese Hizbullah initially withdrew many of their foreign forces from areas along the Syrian-Jordanian border after the zone went into effect on July 9. However, Iran left behind friendly local paramilitary groups and a small number of foreign fighters to continue to cultivate and recruit local groups not covered by the exclusion zone but ultimately subordinate to Iran. Iran is also continuing its build-up on the outskirts of this zone, which places its forces less than an hour drive from the Golan Heights. Israeli officials have stressed that the deal does not meet their "unequivocal demands" to bar Iran and its proxies from the Golan. The deal likewise will not prevent Iran from developing permanent military basing in Syria, another Israeli red line. Al-Qaeda has exploited the "de-escalation zone" to develop a new durable safe haven along the Syrian-Jordanian border for its Syria affiliate Hay'at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). The Trump Administration issued orders that will reportedly end all covert support to opposition groups in Syria by December 2017. The cutoff will lead to the cancellation of salaries for thousands of rebel fighters across Southern Syria. HTS is positioning itself to fill this vacuum.

2017-11-16 00:00:00

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