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July 27, 2018 3:21 pm

Israeli Analysts: Russia, Assad Regime Likely Can’t Remove Iran From Syria

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The Israel-Syria border area in the Golan Heights. Photo: DYKT Mohigan via Wikimedia Commons.

Iran has become so entrenched in Syria that neither Russia nor the Assad regime likely have the desire or ability to remove it, two Israeli analysts posited in a newly-published article.

“Iran conceals its control in Syria; it wants to act and influence behind the scenes, while integrating the forces under its command into the country’s militias and military governmental framework,” Orit Perlov and Udi Dekel of the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank wrote. “It is therefore difficult to establish precisely the number of Iranian proxy forces in Syria. According to many Syrian media reports, especially on opposition websites and social media, the Iranian forces, Hezbollah, and the Shiite militias are participating in the fighting taking place in southern Syria while wearing Syrian army uniforms. Russia is certainly aware that not only are the pro-Iranian Shiite militias not withdrawing from southern Syria, but they are even reinforced there. Presumably the Iranian project in Syria will continue, and forces identified with Iran will be deployed near the border in the Golan Heights under some kind of cover in the near future.”

“Israel, which enjoys intelligence supremacy in Syria, is currently ignoring the presence of Iran’s proxies and the other forces under Iranian command in southern Syria,” they added. “Apparently Israel believes that these forces do not constitute an imminent threat, at least in the near future, and is focusing on preventing the consolidation of substantial Iranian military capabilities in Syria, namely, missiles, rockets, unmanned aerial vehicles, air defense systems, and advanced weapons.”

Perlov and Dekel concluded: “It appears that at this stage, Israel relies on Russia and the Assad regime to keep Iran’s forces and its proxies away from the border once they realize that Iran’s growing involvement and penetration of the local Syrian forces in effect undermines the regime’s sovereignty. It is highly questionable, however, whether Russia and Assad have the will or the capability to get rid of the Iranian presence on Syrian territory, especially in view of the integration of Iranian commanders and Shiite fighters in the local forces. In this case, Israel will have the option of attacking the Iranian proxies even after Assad completes his liberation of the Syrian Golan Heights.”

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