Report: Assad May Have Requested Russian Support to Stem Tide of Iranian Influence in Syria
The real motive behind Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s request for Russian military intervention against opposition forces may have been to stem the tide of Iranian influence in his country, Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported on Wednesday, citing an article published by Germany’s Der Spiegel.
Though Assad’s interest in Russian assistance was initially motivated by fear that his enemies were gaining the upper hand in the years-long civil war in Syria, “Right after that came the fear of his friends,” said a Russian official. The official, referred to as a veteran of the Russian Embassy in Damascus, was referring to Iran — the Assad regime’s most important protector.
“Assad and those around him are afraid of the Iranians,” said the official, claiming that members of the Syrian president’s inner circle were angry about Tehran’s treating Damascus like a colony.
According to the report, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Shiite auxiliaries operating in Syria — which have saved Assad’s regime from total collapse — have been simultaneously building a pro-Iranian mini-state within the country. In addition, it indicated, Syrian officials are seriously fearful that Assad has outlived his usefulness where Iran’s goals for the country are concerned.
Iran’s ambitions for Syria go far beyond merely re-establishing the previous status quo, the report claimed, citing comments made in 2013 by Hojatoleslam Mehdi Taeb, one of the architects of Iran’s engagement in Syria.
“Syria is the 35th province of Iran and it is a strategic province for us,” Taeb said.
The presence of Russian troops, however, has put Assad in a slightly more comfortable position, the report claimed, since it gives him the ability to play Iran and Russia off of each other as he struggles to regain control of his country.