Insomnia's Notes to Self. #1 Syria-Iran
I will consecrate this post to several Notes to Self, that I shall share out loud on this blog, I need to jot down everything. It does not matter if it does not make sense to you, it will eventually. Hence this post will be regularly updated with my own notes - hopefully all the pieces of the puzzle will fit in the end, as am sure they will.
#SYRIA - IRAN
Just read a very important piece from the Wall Street Journal. Iran officially acknowledges that it will be sending Iranian Revolutionary Guards, plus hundreds of foot soldiers, as well as "civilian" Basijis to reinforce the Assad regime i.e to fight along his side.
Now, this is in itself is not news to me. Everyone knows that Iranian operatives are fighting in Syria, including Hezbollah men, and of course Iraqi Shiite Militias notably Muqtada Al-Sadr Jaysh Al-Mahdi men.
What is interesting in this piece though, is the other information... You can read it here in its entirety.
I, for my part, will retain certain keys sentences and will build on them as I go along..
I mentioned in one of my posts on Syria that it is in the interest of Iran to have a continuous "civil" war there, provided it has the upper hand. It is not only out of love for Bashar Al-Assad's person, Iran will drop Bashar Al-Assad like a used tissue the minute it can work out someone else that will serve its interests in Syria - in agreement with the Americans, the EU and Russia. However, meanwhile the balance of power in the region is still in favor of Iran, the stalling by the International community and by the US and EU is a good indicator of that Iranian leverage.
I have been following the Syrian crisis closely and even though I don't comment on it often, I have kept my observations strictly to myself. I have noticed a very distinct pattern in the unfolding of the conflict.
The surrounding cities of the capital Damascus are being gradually emptied (see the huge Syrian refugee exodus, 32'000 just this week alone and according to latest rough figures by the UNHCR a total of 200'000 refugees + since the beginning of the conflict).
The areas in the closest vicinity of Damascus center (apart from Al-Midan) are still relatively intact. In other words the fighting is being kept on the outskirts. I am going to rephrase that - the cleansing is so far being kept at the outskirt of the center of the capital. So far, am presuming that the Assad regime is still counting on its supporters who happen to be mainly in the capital and in certain predominantly Alawite regions like Latakia and Tartous. His supporters are not only Alawites though they do form the bulk, but Christians and Sunnis as well. (we can't deny that fact).
From the way Iran and its militias operate, they first hit (cleanse) the areas outside the capital, or what they consider to be the "weakest links", then move on to the capital if they feel the regime has weakened enough to be overthrown or collapses. It is a classical military tactic but in the case of Syria it serves a two fold purpose. As long as Syria is in a state of civil war and the regime has not collapsed in favor of the opposition, Iran will retain the upper hand.
Hence a continuous state of sectarian war waged upon the Syrians is beneficial to Iran, as it also forces the other countries concerned (namely Turkey - a direct regional competitor to Iran) into a position of defense. Defensive means there's an Offensive by proxy. The proxy being Syria.
So getting back to the article I mentioned above and I shall be quoting from it at great length. Iran to send men, arms and cash in an effort to bolster the Assad regime. According to one commander of the IRGC
-- " Today we are involved in fighting every aspect of a war, a military one in Syria and a cultural one as well," Gen. Salar Abnoush, commander of IRGC's Saheb al-Amr unit, told Iranian volunteer trainees...
-- "As the Arab Spring unfolded in countries including Libya, Egypt and Bahrain, the Islamic Republic cast its own revolution as an inspiration for the uprisings. But Tehran didn't support the protesters in Syria—its closest ally in the region"
-- "One of Iran's wings will be broken if Assad falls. They are now using all their contacts from Iraq to Lebanon to keep him power"
-- "Syria is managing this situation very well on its own,"... but if the government can't resolve the crisis on its own, then based on their request we will fulfill our mutual defense-security pact."
-- "Syria's crisis tops the agenda at the summit of Non-Aligned Movement nations this week in Tehran. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Thursday that Iran would announce a surprise peace plan for Syria during the five-day conference, which started Sunday."
-- "Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word in all state matters, has appointed Qasim Solaimani, the commander of the elite Quds Forces, to spearhead military cooperation with Mr. Assad and his forces, according to an IRGC member in Tehran with knowledge about deployments to Syria."
-- "Solaimani has convinced Mr. Khamenei that Iran's borders extend beyond geographic frontiers, and fighting for Syria is an integral part of keeping the Shiite Crescent intact," said the IRGC member in Tehran. The so-called Crescent, which came together after Saddam Hussein's fall, includes Shiites from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. (note : Syria is majority Sunni)
-- "Iran is now sending hundreds of rank-and-file members of the IRGC and the basij—a plainclothes volunteer militia answering to the guards—to Damascus, said two people in the IRGC familiar with the movements.
Many of the Iranian troops hail from IRGC units outside Tehran, these people say, particularly from Iran's Azerbaijan and Kurdistan regions where they have experience dealing with ethnic separatist movements "
--" Iran has also started moving military aid and cash to Syria through Iranian companies in Iraq, such as a construction company owned by a former IRGC member now living in Iraq and a tour company servicing pilgrims to holy Shiite sites "
From the few statements made by the Iranian officials tied to the regime several aspects come out very clearly.
- it is a military war in the region by proxy - of course "anti imperialists" will jump and say it is an imperialist war against Iran through Syria. Not so. Wait and read the rest...
- it is a sectarian war waged upon the majority Sunnis of Syria by an Alawite sect derived from Shiism (even if a portion of Sunnis still support Assad) - hence reference to the "Shia Crescent"
- it is a cultural war as Soleimani rightly said - cultural as in Shiite versus Sunnis but also as in Persians versus Arabs (trace historical roots - will be tackled in another post)
- as for the "anti-imperialists" I will ask them to re-read the part of how the Iranian arms and cash are flowing through US occupied Iraq to Syria.
Will continue Insha'Allah with more Insomnia's thoughts...