The Iranian Military Intervention in Syria: A Look to the Future

(Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam - Presumably, Tehran intends to leave a significant military presence in Syria for a long time to help the Assad regime stabilize its minority rule and ensure its survival. For Iran, it is important to keep forces in Syria to bind Syria to Tehran and wield decisive influence on its decisions and conduct in case Assad's regime falls. Because Iran has no assurance that the Assad regime will survive, it has assembled two new Syrian militias: the National Defense Forces, numbering tens of thousands of soldiers, mostly Alawites, and a Shiite militia called the Rida Force. Iran's Quds Force seeks to turn the Syrian militias into a permanent military/political force it can deploy, much like Hizbullah. A long-term military presence in Syria is important to Iran in order to embed a source of influence in the heart of the Arab world and ensure a Shiite crescent from Iran to Lebanon. A military presence in Syria allows Iran to expand its influence in Iraq and Lebanon, both of which have a dominant Shiite population; prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state liable to foment unrest within Iran's own Kurdish minority; counterbalance its enemies in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia; and perhaps also enter the Palestinian arena. It will also help Iran aggravate the threat against Israel posed by Hizbullah, in part by extending the front against Israel from southern Lebanon to the Golan Heights. The writer, who served in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a senior research fellow at INSS.

2018-01-26 00:00:00

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