A lot of attention is focused on Jihadist elements fighting in Syria, and the more “secular” Assad regime.
The most underreported aspect of the civil war is that it’s not just a civil war, it’s a grand power-play by Iran to keep control of Syria as a place both to prepare for war with Israel and to keep the supply lines open to Hezbollah.
The Wall Street Journal reports today:
At a base near Tehran, Iranian forces are training Shiite militiamen from across the Arab world to do battle in Syria—showing the widening role of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria’s bloody war.
The busloads of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Syria and other Arab states have been arriving at the Iranian base in recent weeks, under cover of darkness, for instruction in urban warfare and the teachings of Iran’s clerics, according to Iranian military figures and residents in the area. The fighters’ mission: Fortify the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni rebels, the U.S. and Israel.
Iran’s widening role in Syria has helped Mr. Assad climb back from near-defeat in less than a year. The role of Iran’s training camp for Shiite fighters hasn’t previously been disclosed.
The fighters “are told that the war in Syria is akin to [an] epic battle for Shiite Islam, and if they die they will be martyrs of the highest rank,” says an Iranian military officer briefed on the training camp, which is 15 miles outside Tehran and called Amir Al-Momenin, or Commander of the Faithful.
The training of thousands of fighters is an outgrowth of Iran’s decision last year to immerse itself in the Syrian civil war on behalf of its struggling ally, the Assad regime, in an effort to shift the balance of power in the Middle East. Syria’s bloodshed is shaping into more than a civil war: It is now a proxy war among regional powers jockeying for influence in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions.
On one side of this proxy war is Mr. Assad, backed by Iran, Russia and Shiite militias. On the other side, the rebels, backed by Saudi Arabia, Arab states and the U.S.
This is another reason the Kerry-Lavrov deal was such a success not only for Putin, but for Iran. Anything that keeps Assad in power is an Iranian win. This deal does just that.
Via The Atlantic:
For his part, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons, rather than “punished” as originally planned. He has managed to remove the threat of U.S. military action while giving very little up in return. Obscured in the debate of the past few weeks is that chemical weapons were never central to the Syrian regime’s military strategy. It doesn’t need to use chemical weapons. In other words, even if the regime does comply with inspections (which could drag on for months if not years), it will have little import for the broader civil war, which Assad remains intent on winning.
If anything, Assad finds himself in a stronger position.