More than three years into the civil war in Syria, which has cost about 150,000 lives so far, it is possible to see which way the wind is blowing – if you ask Tehran. What started as a genuine struggle by opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for a more democratic state has morphed into a war in which radical Sunni Islamist militants have fought Assad loyalists backed by Iranian Shi’ite Hezbollah troops.
With a little help from Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Assad’s troops have managed to turn the tide of the war in their favor, the insiders told The Guardian last week. It’s a double victory: for Syria and Iran, the latter having managed to take control of a war the US was wary of getting involved in.
More and more details emerge as to the nature of the assistance Iran has provided Assad. While the Iranians deceivingly claimed advisory assistance only, In the most recent instance, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) has been seeking out young Afghan refugees displaced by the violence in their country and offering them $500 and residency permits if they agree to fight Assad’s war.
The Telegraph reported earlier this month that Iran may have supplied the Syrian army with chlorine bombs, along with other weapons, on a series of Tehran-Damascus Illusion supply flights. According to The Daily Beast, it has also supplied American-inspired drones – an illegal involvement that UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who recently resigned, was pushed into sanctioning.
But some outlets, such as Al-Monitor, have downplayed Iran’s problematic contribution to the Syrian crisis and to Assad’s continued rule, saying Washington should team up with Tehran to disarm Syria of chemical weapons and fight al-Qaeda-linked groups in the country.