Iran willing to go to extremes in Syria even if it has no place there

Iran is willing to jump on any occasion to show its willingness to ignite the entire region.
Sunday 25/02/2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a piece of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace during the Munich Security Conference, on February 18. (AFP)
War of words and drones. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a piece of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace during the Munich Security Conference, on February 18. (AFP)

The war in Syria will soon have completed its seventh year. It was a people’s revolution put down by a minority regime that believes only in eliminating any opposition. For what result?

Syria has been destroyed and torn apart. The larger cities — Aleppo, Homs and Hama — were specifically targeted and there were special efforts to undo the demographic composition of Damascus and surrounding areas to facilitate the domestication of the capital.

Above all, Syria is no longer independent. Five countries — Iran, Israel, Russia, the United States and Turkey — share its trusteeship. Turkey hustled at the last minute to place a solid foot in Syrian territory even though it was among the first to support the people’s revolution in March 2011.

Turkey had the right slogans but was unable to put them in practice. Much later, Turkey joined the race in Syria by allying itself with Russia, which had shrewdly taken advantage of Turkey’s weaknesses and hesitation. One of Turkey’s weaknesses is called Russian tourists. They flocked back to Turkey and breathed life into a major sector of the Turkish economy.

The Syrian regime was teetering when, in 2012, the Iranians went to its rescue. The Russians took over in 2015. By ruthlessly crushing a peaceful revolution, the Assad regime turned it into an armed conflict. Backed by the Iranians, the regime contributed to the rise of bloodthirsty organisations, such as the Islamic State (ISIS), and scored an interesting victory by making its war on the Syrian people look like a “war on terror.”

ISIS first appeared in Syria and expanded to Iraq. Iran gained enormously from ISIS’s existence. It and its sanguinary reputation gave the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian allies the golden opportunity to unleash all kinds of horror on Syria’s population. If people were not decimated, they were forced to migrate. There were even population exchanges between regions based on sectarian discrimination.

The Syrian regime believes in sectarian discrimination and ethnic cleansing in the service of its short-term goals and Iran’s long-term goals. ISIS served its purpose. In Iraq, it was an excuse for legitimising the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilisation Forces, for destroying the city of Mosul and for forcefully changing the demographics of Iraq. In Syria, it gave the regime an excuse to use chemical weapons and to Hezbollah the excuse to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty and wipe out the borders between Lebanon and Syria. Sectarianism had to triumph.

After seven years, the Syrian war has taken a new twist with the emergence of broad lines for a Russian-American agreement about Syria, despite rumours that the recent downing of the American-made Israeli F-16 was a response to the downing of a Russia-made Sukhoi SU-25 by an American-made Stinger missile.

Such an agreement means, among other things, that the occupied Golan Heights has become part of Israel. It seems that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu imparted that information to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently when they met during the Munich Security Conference.

It is obvious that Russia is going to provide protection for the Alawites in Syria. It is also the power capable of rebuilding the Syrian Army without necessarily sidelining Alawite officers.

It is obvious that the United States is not willing to let go of its presence in Syria and the Middle East in general. It is in control of a rich, Kurdish-majority region in Syria. It is obvious that Russia and the United States are willing to give Turkey room for action in northern Syria. After meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States and Turkey share the same objective in Syria.

Now, where is Iran in all of this? There is no room for Iran in Syria. Why should it be otherwise?

There is no reason for Iran to spend billions of dollars to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power in Damascus and to transform that historic and venerable city. By sending a drone over Israeli territory, Iran was saying to the world: “I’m ready for a war to remain in Syria.”

Hezbollah was sending similar messages. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that his party was ready to use its missiles to give Lebanon an edge in any negotiations with Israel concerning the offshore gas field in Block 9.

Unfortunately, there are people who forget that the disastrous events of the summer of 2006 in Lebanon were brought about by Hezbollah’s missiles. Had Hezbollah been victorious over Israel rather than Lebanon during that war, we wouldn’t have UN Resolution 1701 today.

Iran is willing to jump on any occasion to show its willingness to ignite the entire region. It is willing to go to extremes to defend its presence in Syria even if this presence is unjustified.