What Exactly is Iran Doing in Syria?
The state of Iran has a deep involvement in Syria entailing expensive and well coordinated efforts to help extend president Bashar al-Saad’s grip on power. All together, the nation is busy creating the perfect circumstances under which it may retain the capability to exploit the Syrian territory and resources to safeguard its regional interests if the Assad’s regime falls.
A mix of Iranian armed forces and spy agency are giving advisory assistance to the Syrian forces to help the country’s leader remain in power. The evolution of these Iranian efforts has now taken the form of an expeditionary training force spearheaded by several units of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). That Iran has deployed the IRGC’s Ground Forces to war overseas is a clear indicator of how willing and capable the country has become to project its military might outside its borders.
Iran has also been sending aircraft to deliver stockpiles of weapons to Syria. This has been very important considering that significant gains made by rebels have closed important ground supply channels between Syria and Iraq. The military hardware delivered has injected appreciable impetus into the Syrian forces, helping them win numerous encounters with militia.
Iran has also been extending help to shabiha militia that’s been fighting on the side of the Syrian government. The country may need this partly to offset any possible fall of the Syrian regime or reduction of its territory to only Damascus and Alawite at the coast. Should that come to pass, the militias will appreciate Tehran’s help, and Iran will retain the ability to exercise its military power and operate from inside Syria.
What Iran does in Syria matches the objectives and activities of numerous other armed parties. For example, Hezbollah from Lebanon started playing a direct part in the Syrian conflict as Asaad began to cede control over sections of Syrian territory in 2012. The group has extended support to Asaad’s regime in the form of a strong well-trained military force whose role in the war is perfectly aligned with the strategic interests of Tehran.
Certainly, Iran’s activities within Syria are significantly limited due to factors beyond its power. There’s also a high chance that the end of the conflict and fall of Asaad would deal a major blow to Iran’s ability to project military force. Nevertheless, Tehran is continuously implementing counter-measures to ascertain that any eventual defeat of the Syrian government does not interfere Iran’s strategic regional objectives. Such interests are feasible if Iran is able to operate from certain bases in parts of Syria under rule of friendly groups after the downfall of Asaad, provided that anti-government militias are unable to fully take over all Syrian territories.