As much as I want US troops out of Syria and the Middle East in general, prudence dictates otherwise…
How Tehran Plans to Control Syria
Recent statements by a number of Israeli officials have claimed a degree of success in Israel’s efforts to contain and roll back Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. But while Israel’s tactical successes are certainly notable and impressive, the big picture is that Iran’s influence and strength in Syria continues to deepen and expand.
Iran’s efforts are taking place at three levels: below the official Syrian state structures – in the arming and sponsoring of Iran-controlled paramilitary formations on Syria soil, within the Syrian state – in the control of institutions that are officially organs of the regime, and above the state, in the pursuit of formal links between the Iranian and Syrian regimes. As Tehran seeks to impose its influence on Assad’s Syria in the emergent post-rebellion period, meanwhile, there are indications that its project is running up against the rival plans and ambitions of the Russians.
A report by the generally reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this week described in detail the nature of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s efforts to entrench its presence in a single, significant Syrian town: al-Mayadin, west of the strategically important Albukamal border crossing between Iraq and Syria, and just west of the Euphrates River.
The Observatory described extensive recruitment of local Syrians, including individuals who were formerly involved with the armed opposition, into the ranks of Iran’s various paramilitary “Syrian Hezbollah” type structures that have been established in Syria. The report noted that the incentives given to entice individuals into these structures included a monthly salary of between $150-300, allowing individuals a variety of options as to where they wish to serve, and immunity from arrest at the hands of regime security forces.