Iran and Hizbullah are doing everything they can to keep Bashar Assad in power in Syria, said a special report by the The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), an independent organization that keeps track of terror groups and activities in the Middle East and around the world. “For Iran and Hizbullah, the preservation of Bashar Assad's regime is of supreme strategic importance,” ITIC says in its latest report.
The assistance is mutual, the ITIC report says; Syria helps Hizbullah and Iran as much as they help Israel's implacable enemy. “Syria is Iran's greatest 'resistance camp' ally, providing it with a firm foothold in the heart of the Middle East, as well as political and military influence” said the report, released Tuesday. Meanwhile, “Syria plays a vital role in Hizbullah's military buildup, helping it to build offensive and deterrent capabilities against Israel. For Iran and Hizbullah, the fall of the Syrian regime would be a disaster, it would weaken Iran's regional position against the United States and Israel and damage Hizbullah's military capabilities and political influence in Lebanon,” ITIC said.
Iran and Hizbullah are looking to the future, as well. On the assumption that Sunni forces represented by the Syrian rebel groups plan to continue their attempts to wrest controls of at least parts of the country – as Bashar Assad appears, at least for now, unable to get rid of the rebels – Iran and Hizbullah are “making it possible for the Shi'ites and Alawites to defend themselves by founding a 'popular army,'” consisting of 100,000-150,000 soldiers. The force would “give Iran and Hizbullah a foothold in the areas populated by Shi'ites and Alawites, making them important factors in the internal Syrian arena in the post-Bashar Assad era,” ITIC said.
While recent reports indicate that Hizbullah has only recently become involved in helping Assad, the ITIC report said that “Hizbullah was involved in the first year of the civil war in Syria but was careful to keep a low profile. In 2012 it sent a limited number of its military operatives to Syria, mainly as advisors and for security missions.
“Hizbullah was actively drawn into the war (as opposed to Iran's caution) during the first half of 2013,” the report said. “That was because both in Iranian and Hizbullah assessment, the survival of the Syrian regime was in jeopardy and that Shi'ite religious-sectarian interests were being threatened. However, despite its having fallen into the Syrian cauldron, Hizbullah's direct involvement in the war is still relatively limited and its influence on overall events in Syria is secondary. In our assessment, however, its involvement may grow as the Syrian regime weakens and the dangers to Iran and Hizbullah's strategic interests increase,” the report added.