Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stalemate in the Syrian Crisis and its Impact on Iran’s Middle East Strategy

Stalemate in the Syrian Crisis and its Impact on Iran’s Middle East Strategy
Ali Asghar Kazemi
June 20, 2015

The Prolongation of the Syrian crisis that has so far caused extended human and material loses to this country has also become an undesired huge burden to Iran. Four years have elapsed since first signs of political manifestations inspired from the “Arab Spring” appeared in this country.[1] Not many people in the region, including Iran as the main Syrian ally, appeared to believe that the events could cause so much damage and structural changes. During this unfortunate crisis, Iran supported the Syrian incumbent government with all financial and material means at hand while itself was under serious UN and international economic sanctions.
 The continuation of the crisis and gradual weakening of Syria induced opposition groups on the one hand and opportunist terrorists who where active in Iraq , Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region,  to enter into  the scene and the trend led to the creation of a self-proclaimed “Islamic State”  ISIS, in control of parts of Iraq and Syria headed by a “Caliph.”
Observers believe that the main causes of terrorist victory in the region were:
a)     Disparity and weakness of the opposition groups unable to set and follow a consistent strategy for toppling the Syrian regime;
b)     The prolongation of the crisis due to foreign intervention and assistance to the Syrian government  that could eventually collapse in the first months of the crisis;
c)      Extended human loses  and material damages that caused forced repatriation of  huge numbers of  Syrian people;
d)     Extensive  and unnecessary use of lethal and illegal weapons for the purposes containing political discontents and demonstrations;
e)     Unrestricted support of a dying regime that had become a huge liability for Iran’s Middle East strategy.                                                                                                                    

In fact, Iranian decision makers did not realize that Bashar al Assad as a contested head of Arab state could no longer play his expected role for Iran’s forward strategy in the new crisis-ridden Middle East. It is well to remember that almost all Arab States wished Assad regime to collapse right from the beginning.

The prevailing deadlock at the present time makes it very difficult for Syrian conventional allies   including Iran and Russia to continue their supports of Syria. Consequently the weakening of the Assad regime could lead to one of the following destiny:   
1)      Total collapse of the regime in favor of the ISIS that could extend its power to the whole Syrian territory;
2)     Protracted civil war leading to the disintegration of Syria divided  into three or four region between Shia’ Alawites , Sunnis, Kurds and Islamic State( Wahabis , Salafis and Takfiris) ;
3)     There could be another alternative relating to the United Nation Security Council intervention for the purpose of establishing law and order in Syria and putting the country provisionally under the tutorship of the permanent members of the Security Council;
4)     The Security Council may if necessary relegate its power and responsibility to protect in Syria to a third party such as for instance the Arab League to assume security and administrative tasks during a transitional period.
There is no need to prove that none of the above outcomes could serve the strategic interests of Iran in the region. Therefore it can be suggested that Iran would be better off to avoid tension and stay away from Syrian affairs as soon as possible before it be driven to a real quagmire that could jeopardize its overall national interests.
Syrian regime has lost legitimacy long ago and foreign intervention to rescue it from collapse has only worsened the situation for its people and the international community as a whole. Syria should have followed the fate of other North African Arab states such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
International political analysts believe that it is most likely that upon the conclusion of an eventual  nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 powers , the United States and its allies  would probably  move on to other outstanding  items on their agenda  including the Syrian crisis and destabilizing groups backed by the Islamic regime. This would mean that sooner or later the fate of Syria will be determined once for all. In that case Iran would be the main looser in the game and will be forced to adjust its strategy to the conditions imposed upon it.
In view of Middle East experts, loosing Syria may be an onerous defeat for Iran’s ambitious strategy in the region since it would prevent its footings and logistic lines of support to Hezbollah and Hamas; but, in the final account that might prevent an eventual serious clash between Iran and its main rival regional powers namely Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has clearly shown its resolve to tackle with foreign encroachment in its security perimeter. The case of Yemen crisis proved that it has very high propensity to directly engage into a regional war where its strategic interests are at peril.  Therefore, Iran should be cautious in achieving its regional ambitions in the Middle East and avoid any tension that could escalate to a full-fledged crisis situation. /


[1] Some analysts claim that the Syrian civil war began in 1980 when a group of Muslim Brothers stormed the military academy in Aleppo and, after separating the Alawite and Sunni cadets, cold-bloodedly killed the Alawites with knives and assault rifles. The regime retaliated in 1982 by brutally killing more than 20,000 Muslim Brothers in Homs and Hama – See: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War April 14, 2013

* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and -International Relations in Tehran-Iran. Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts ‎of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and the ‎Middle East Academic Forum. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.‎

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