Iran facing a big dilemma- To save Islamic Revolution, or Syria?

Mirali Agayev

Political Analyst specializing on Iran.

Aghayev_Mirali

Protestors hold up a banner picturing late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L), Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2L) and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khameni (2R) and late Syrian Presidnet Hafez al-Assad during a march for Al-Quds (Jerusalem) day, 05 October 2007 at Yarmouk refugee camp, outside Damascus. Demonstrators across the Middle East held marches in an annual call for Jerusalem and Israel to be handed to the Palestinians. AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)


The history of the good relationship between Iran and its strategic ally Syria, a communication bridge between Islamic Republic and Hezbollah and “one of the members of resistance against the Zionist regime”, dates to Shah’s government in Iran.

In 1979, after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, bilateral relations between the two countries were on the rise and Syria was a country that supported Tehran during the Iran–Iraq War from 1980-1988.

Immediately after the Syrian Civil War started in 2011, Iran has been providing significant support for the Assad’s regime, spanning from logistical, technical and financial support to training and some combat troops. According to the statistics, Iran missed 2100 from its troops in Syria until 2017.

Iranian officials, as well as the supreme leader Seyid Ali Khamenei talking about Tehran’s intervention in Syria, explained it with certain reasons: 1. religious and ideological conviction to defend Shias’ sacred religious sites, 2. secular and pragmatic commitment to preserve Iran’s national security.

Iran’s Khamenei during his meeting with the families of the Iranian soldiers killed in Syria in 2017 highlighted his country’s role in the war this way: ‘If we had not intercepted malevolents and mischief-makings of the US and Zionism in Syria, today we would have been combating them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan, and Isfahan”.

Taking into account the commentaries of the supreme leader and other Iranian officials, it becomes obvious that, Tehran has been pursuing “strategic depth policy” in Syria. Albeit Tehran implies its active role in Syrian Civil War as being “securitization policy” (to keep its internal security intact), the US and Israel are still anxious about Iran’s presence in the country.  Both allies are in this opinion that, by reasoning its role in Syria as being “strategic depth policy”, Tehran, in fact, tries to keep Assad’s regime legitimate, and in this way to prevent its communication means with Hezbollah from being destroyed. Indeed, if the speech of Iranian officials is accepted as truth, Iran should have taken similar measures against radical Islamists in Iraq, which is a buffer country for Iran, rather than in Syria.

As Iran’s military activities in Syria are on the basis of the official request of the President of the country Bashar Al-Assad, it does not contradict to article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter. It is noteworthy that the permission for a military intervention of a country or countries on the territory of a war-torn country on the basis of the official invitation of that country was issued indirectly in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314. According to the first paragraph of Article 3 of this resolution, the continuation of the presence of armed forces of a country stationed within the war-torn country’s territory in the framework of official consent, after the expiry of the period stipulated in the agreement, is considered as an act of aggression. The US and its allies accusing Assad’s regime of committing war crimes towards Opposition Forces and civilians, consider these actions the violation of the international commitment of countries regarding not to support and participate in violations of international law by committing war crimes and conspicuous violations of the conflict laws.

In fact, the US and Israel find Iran’s presence in Syria a big security threat against Tel Aviv. Iran stationed in Syria and Assad’s regime remaining in power hold the meanings that Hezbollah will continue its relations with Tehran and threats against Israel will grow stronger. In this respect, Washington has started a new economic war against Tehran to enforce it, to retreat from Syria and to cut all the help which Iran supplies for Assad’s regime. This new economic war can lead to the weakening of the columns of the existing theocratic regime in Iran and to chaos inside the country. As a result of the beginning of Washington’s new policy towards Tehran, the economic situation in Iran has been aggravated, and the dollar rate has risen roughly three times. Although in previous years Iranian population in some of their protests against religious regime demanded the authorities to stop funding Syria and Hezbollah, speeches over the past few months have been exacerbated either by ordinary citizens or by some officials in this direction.

How much has Iran been spending in Syria Civil War annually?

In the Staffan de Mistura’s estimate, UN special envoy for the Syria crisis, Iran has been spending at least $ 6 billion per year since Syria Civil war began.

According to this statistics, in general, Iran has spent about $ 45-50 on the support of Assad’s regime. Other analysts believe that the amount of money spent by Iran in the armed conflict annually is variable between $ 15-20.

Will Washington’s new economic war and possible new sanctions against Tehran be effective in favor of Iran’s withdrawal from Syria?

After the US president Donald Trump announced the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, reimposing fresh sanctions on the regime, the aggravation in Iran’s economy is on increase. Despite this situation, the indicator  that Iran would pursue its policy in Syria was the speech delivered by Iran’s Rouhaniin that he declared: “Iranians would never kneel down in front of foreign pressures”, announcing his government “will close Strait of Hormuz if the US reimposes sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas exports”. But, it is not an exception that due to growing objections against county’s foreign policy amongst some officials and social protests in the country to retain the Islamic Revolution, Iran would withdraw from Syria and power balance in the region would change. Thus, Iranian authorities are formulating the public opinion in this respect. Although none of Iran’s officials criticised Assad’s regime and their country’s presence there, Bahrouz Bounyadi a member of the Iranian parliament elected from Kashmar county delivering an unprecedented speech on June 27, 2018, blamed his country for squandering huge amount of money in foreign wars and accused Syria and Russia of  “sacrificing Iran to Netanyahu and Trump for their own political interests”.

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