Syrian aftershocks in Iran

5 Sep 2012

■ Ali Afshari
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Considering the escalation of violence in Syria with further advancement of the revolutionary movement, the fall of Bashar Asaad’s regime seems to be more likely than ever before. In other words his collapse relies on nothing more than a matter of time.

Within the following report, we try to analyze the path to the end of the conflict leading to termination of current Syrian regime as well as the consequences of this event on the political situation of Iran.

To begin with, it is crucial to know that the Islamic Republic of Iran would be the one country that feels the highest impact from Anti-authoritarian Movements in Syria. Therefore, the fall of Bashar Asaad will have highly considerable and Inalienable consequences on Iranian political position causing major changes in their domestic as well as international strategies. However its short and long term effects in terms of scope and severity is controversial.

Next to that, despite the hype, there is no such thing as a certain direct link between the collapse of Asaad’s regime and an undoubted political change in Iran. As notable of a threat as this can be to the Iranian government, there are still possibilities of overcoming this matter. Therefore an analysis assuming definite shake of the foundation of the Iranian regime as a result of Saad’s removal is not necessarily true. This important and historic event will blow a hard strike to the heart of the Islamic Republic though it will not be fatal. However it will prepare the situation and clear the ground for pro-democracy movements. Although taking the best advantage of this potential situation requires immense protest movements as well as most appropriate exploitation techniques from their outcomes which is an issue that we do not currently witness in the Iranian society. It is also important to bare in mind that the consequences of the victory of Syrian revolution mainly effect the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From the domestic perspective, Assad’s departure is an obvious defeat for the government and vice versa develops a sense of victory for the public and oppositions. The Islamic Republic, more than every other external influencer, supported and tied destinies with the Syrian government to an extend that Assad, while expressing his gratitude in an interview with Iranian media, expressed his full and unquestionable support of any matter related to cooperating with Iran as a way to redeem their favors.

Iranian support of Syria included political support, training their military and security force, deterrent against Turkish and Saudi Arabian approach, signing new contracts in terms of trade and economy and possibly weapon exchange.

Multiple officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, expressed the importance of Assad regime’s survival as crucial and have warned to enter the conflict supporting Assad in case of any foreign intervention. However, baring in mind that Syria, in spite of having access to dominant power particularly the military as well as full support of Khamenei, is lacking a considerable integrity regarding their own public support.

In the other hand, there are a number doubts on this matter. Some even amongst the followers of the Iranian regime themselves. To overcome this, sections of the government’s policy including the media are dedicated to present and broadcast Syrian support of the Islamic Republic during the past thirty two years.

Assad’s fall will develop and improve radical and revolutionary approach amongst oppositions who believe that, relying on social movements and serious organized battles, they can put an end to despotism and completely rearrange the political structure that was once based on tyranny.

Iran’s maneuvering scale in Syria will become more limited. They will also become more vulnerable against internal demonstrations as well as further developments in the region. Still it is very unlikely to witness effective pro-democracy movements as a result of this event

Once failing to ensure the survival of power even after Assad’s oppression strategy based on massacre leading to 15000 deaths, one would begin to realize that the myths describing the invincibility of repressive regimes are no longer valid in the minds of dissidents particularly the young youth. This can cause a great threat to the regime as it can encourage and prepare the ground for the oppositions and demonstrators.

However Assad’s fall will not only create power struggle, harassment policy and resorting to repression, but also presents doubts on the effectiveness regarding political correctness by a number of the oppositions who believe that resistance against repressive authoritarian regimes can only by guided through peaceful means regardless of defensive persistence and the use of violence.

If Iran possessed an active political engagement as well as hope and a clear vision for resistance, Assad’s fall can cause and accelerate further demonstrations. But at this moment it is very unlikely that this matter will quickly lead to protest movements in Iran. However, the lessons learned from this event can guide the Iranian nation to their resurgence.

One of the most important aspects we can learn from Assad’s fall is about detachment from stereotypes and avoiding unconditional and immutable decisions and rules against different means of protests. As a result, the most appropriate strategy can be chosen relative to each stage. Also designing a logical framework particularly in relation with selecting the type of violence against a non-violent protest.

From an international perspective, Assad’s fall can cause irreparable damages to the Islamic Republic. Firstly, the balance of power in the region will no longer be in their advantage. This means that, after all the uprisings in the Arab world, they were not only ineffective in taking the best advantage from the emerging potentials, but even witness themselves in a worse position prior the uprisings.

Secondly, it blows a strike to the heart of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the absence of Assad, the balance of power will turn against Hezbollah and their allies. Syria’s position is not only crucial due to their political influence in Lebanon as well as their support of Hezbollah, but also due to providing the main path of weapon transfer to this country. Syria is a passage connecting Iran to Hezbollah enabling their mutual cooperation. Now in case of the removal of Assad’s regime, the replacing government, will most probably choose a critical and unwelcoming approach towards the Islamic Republic and Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s weakening, will certainly reduce (if not remove) the leverage of Iran in the region. Consequently, Saudi Arabia and their allies will take control of the internal matters of Syria and eventually they will also join the list of Arabic based oppositions of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At the same time, it is also important to bare in mind that, Assad’s departure does not necessarily imply Hezbollah’s complete retirement from the region as their supporters still remain as important figures within Lebanon. However they will not have the same power as before. Also, in contrary with the propaganda of the revolutionary forces in Syria, the effects of the revolution will not alter the directions of Hezbollah to any sort of pro-Israeli approach. Instead, their objections against Israel and the means of which they use in dealing with them would be similar to Egypt and other Arabian countries.

Due to the fact that Syria has, by nature, the major influence in Lebanon particularly due to geopolitical aspects, the emerge of a new government can make peace between Hezbollah and pro-Syrian forces. However Hezbollah’s strong support of Assad’s regime is considered to be a major obstacle in achieving this goal and therefore any type of compensation by Hezbollah in response to an approach by Syrian new government seems to be highly unlikely or even impossible. Next to that, the coalition of March 14th can this time vote in favor of Syria thus transforming the political structure in Lebanon.

On the other hand, even with Assad’s departure, we can not assume the end of Iranian activities in Lebanon. Current actions by the government in line with achieving ambitions defined by leadership and other key elements of power, indicate that in case of Syria’s collapse, they have no intention of altering their domestic nor foreign policies.

Efforts in introducing Iraq as a replacement is one of the scenarios that is currently in process. However Iraq is unable to provide equal benefits to Iran like Syria does. At this point in time Iraq has a weak government and lacks sufficient control and authority over its entire territory. But it can provide certain facilities to regain connections between Iran and Hezbollah in case Syria will no longer be considered an option.

Nevertheless, there are still opportunities with the power to keep the current government in Syria intact. Firstly, assisting pro-Assad supporters (particularly “Alawis”) to carryout terroristic acts causing destabilization with the emerge of a new government thus allowing Iran to impose their presence within the new structure of Syrian government. An other path to manipulate the new system is via the distribution of religious affiliations in Syria.

In the map below, the green region indicates the area populated by Alawis. The vast yellow region are the Sunni residents. The blue section shows the Shia sects. Where the striped grey is shown indicates the location of Kurdish citizens and finally the stripped red is the territory of the Christians. As you can see in the map, the area inhabited by Alawis is located on the border line with Lebanon.

The Baath and Alawi sects can re-establish themselves in Damascus and control the city autonomously even after loosing it. However this fact is only possible if the revolutionary forces are unable to take control over entire Syrian territories. In this case, the Islamic Republic can still reach their objective in

Syria using only Alawian area of inhabitants. This means that supporting disintegration in Syria can play an important role for Iran and their allies.

It is also important to consider the power transition process after Assad’s collapse as an important decisive factor in Syria. The more indecisive the revolutionary forces remain amongst themselves regarding Syria’s future and the more the country walks towards instability and power struggle among various groups, the more ground opens for the Islamic Republic to intervene. However if the conditions reach a stable level (as it happened in Libya and Egypt) and the future prospect of the country shows a bright path towards solidity and consistency, there will be no room for movement of the Islamic Republic in Syria.

In conclusion, collapse of Assad’s regime will cause an irreparable damage to the Islamic Republic with heavy consequences from both domestic and international perspective. Nevertheless, it will not lead to a voluntary change in their domestic policy and global governance.

Evidence shows that the government officials surrounding this case are rethinking their strategies to fit in the new conditions in order to rebuild their position, minimize their losses while chasing their initial objectives.

However, in any case, Iran’s maneuvering scale in Syria will become more limited. They will also become more vulnerable against internal demonstrations as well as further developments in the region. Still it is very unlikely to witness effective pro-democracy movements (in a short term) as a result of this event . But it can encourage and motivate a better organized framework to the next round of uprisings and to increase and bring about the hope of a political change in Iran. Assad’s departure blows a new life in a belief that simply by relying on political tyranny, murdering the oppositions and authoritarianism, you can not fully stop a nation from demanding change.


Tehran Review
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    تهران‌ریویو مجله‌ای اینترنتی، چند رسانه‌ای و غیر انتفاعی است. هدف ما به سادگی، افزایش سطح گفتمان عمومی در مورد ایده‌ها، آرمان‌ها و وقایع جهان امروز است. این مشارکت و نوشته‌های شما مخاطبان است که کار چند رسانه‌ای ما را گسترش داده و به آن غنا و طراوت می‌بخشد. رایگان بودن این مجله اینترنتی به ما اجازه می‌دهد تا در گستره بیشتری اهداف خود را پیگیری کرده و تاثیرگذار باشیم. مهم‌تر از همه اینکه سردبیران و دست‌اندرکاران تهران‌ریویو به دور از حب و بغض‌های رایج و با نگاهی بی‌طرفانه سعی دارند به مسایل روز جهان نگاه کرده و بر روی ایده‌های ارزشمند انگشت بگذارند. تهران ریویو برای ادامه فعالیت و نشر مقالات نیازمند یاری و کمک مالی شماست.