Al-Quds Al-Arabi – Feb. 06, 2019, issue 9447, p. 21
The ancient Greek tragedy has always been full of treason and breach of trust among the Allies. Just as Athens and even whole Greece almost fell into the hands of the Persians because of the betrayal of Ephialtes to the King of Sparta, this scene continues to haunt the kingdoms and nations of our days. Today’s ally may be the enemy of tomorrow. Lately Tehran is experiencing this nightmare so strongly that is led to the loss of control and impulse movements in the region and in Syria in particular.
With the beginning of 2017 and in light of the apparent decline of the Syrian revolution force and the evasion of their promises by its allies, the most important question for the Syrian intellectuals at the time was whether the revolution was defeated. My friend’s answer was clear: the revolution had lost its imaginary friends and won a lesson of confidence. While Assad had won a victory through the muscles of his allies and his fall would be through his own allies.
At the outset it must be emphasized that the Iranian militia presence in the countries of the region has been and is still mainly linked to the devastation and instability within these countries. In Iraq, in the course of the past 16 years, this country has not lived a day of calm, and whenever it comes out of a trap, it enters a new one with the hallmarks of Tehran. In Syria, Tehran is using the same plan. The continuation of the cycle of conflict there is the ideal environment for the Iranian presence. Any international political solution, even if Assad remains, it will mean a future loss for Tehran. This perception of reality is constantly driving Iran to mix the cards at any impasse, and what has been happening inside the Syrian since about two months of Iranian military moves in my personal opinion is the beginning of a turning point and creating a new crisis.
Mistrust between Tehran and Moscow
At the beginning of December with the repeated painful Israeli strikes against the Iranian presence in Syria and the Syrian south particularly, a state of mistrust emerged between Tehran and Moscow. Russia, that has repeatedly emphasized its coordination with Tel Aviv in its strikes against the Syrian interior, did not prevent limited the Israeli raids. Moreover, the S-300 system promised by Moscow to give to Assad confined its presence within the Syrian West, where the most important military presence of Moscow exists. What has made matters worse for Tehran and its stance in the Syrian crisis is Washington’s decision to withdraw from Syria, which may add further pitfalls among the friends of Astana and turn the Syrian east from the point of convergence between Turkey, Iran and Russia against the US presence there to a point of disagreement that may complicate the scene even more.
Tehran saw clearly through the information received from the Syrian interior that the US decision may accelerate the political solution in Syria, and therefore one of the most important points of any solution on the table will be Iran’s withdrawal from the Syrian territory. As Moscow is the most important international player on the ground with the exit of Washington, it will not have an alternative option in order to open the door to the reconstruction of Syria by the West and the Gulf to only accept the idea of pushing Tehran out of the borders of the country.
This inevitability prompted Tehran to increase its military presence in Syria more and more. According to the Debka website, which is close to the Israeli Mossad, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards led by Qassim Soleimani have pushed more than 10,000 fighters from the Iraqi Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi towards the western Iraqi border waiting for the right moment to advance. The recent Israeli strikes and published details and objectives behind them confirm that Tehran began preparing military sites of its own away from the eyes of Russia in the vicinity of Damascus and the south of Syria in a way that suggests that is moving far away from Russian opinion or the interests of the Assad regime.
Igniting the Syrian front
At present, the lack of confidence between Moscow and Tehran may be what is happening in the western Hama countryside on the one hand and the economic situation and lack of fuel in Assad’s areas on the other. According to local sources from the countryside of Hama, clashes have been going on for a week with dozens of dead and wounded between the 4th division, an ally of Tehran, and the 5th Corps supported by Russia. The apparent reason for these clashes is the uncontrolled influence of militias, but the real reason behind them is the collision between Moscow and Tehran. Furthermore, the fuel crisis that has begun to ignite the Syrian streets is a way to force Assad to choose between Iran and Russia.
Moscow has always demanded and stressed the need for the Iranian presence in any negotiations concerning the Syrian crisis, but the Sochi agreement, which determined the fate of the last strongholds of the revolution in Idlib and its surroundings drafted by Moscow and Ankara without consulting the Iranian. In the same vein, Moscow’s summit between Putin and Erdoğan over the Syrian east and the details of the safe area to be established were far from the Iranian view of the future of this important region rich in oil and gas and strategic location, underscoring the rift between the allies of the dictator of the Muhajireen neighborhood.
In the meantime, Tehran will have to expand the circle conflict in Syria in an attempt to turn the table against any plan that would eliminate its presence there. The choice is likely to be between two routes. The first is to ignite the Syrian border with Tel Aviv through its multi-national militias there. The positivity of this step could open a door with Israel by exhausting it and pushing it to accept an exit that would end US economic sanctions. The second option may be at the expense of Assad. The Yemeni experience is an example. The coming days are likely to be hot in Syria and the fragments of its bombs may reach beyond Al-Bukamal to the east and from Damas to the west.