Russia’s withdrawal from Syria a boon for Iran’s regional project

Russia’s withdrawal from Syria a boon for Iran’s regional project

Echoes of the Russian-Ukrainian war, less than four months old, have reached our region. Our discussion is not about Tehran-affiliated units or militias joining the fight there. Rather, we are talking about geopolitics, as well as the vacuum that we have begun to notice following the gradual military withdrawal and the withdrawal of Russia from Syria, with the Iranian presence filling this vacuum.
Russia settled in the region under the shadow of US withdrawal as it sought to pursue its interests. This led Moscow to improve its balance of trade and investment, in addition to using the port of Tartous and playing an important role in the Middle East.
Russia’s military presence in Syria – to support the regime in Damascus – was seen as a counterbalance and a check on Iran, even though it is an ally of the Iranians there. Its presence has also become a reason for regional acceptance of the spread of Iranian militias in Syria.
However, the external balance theory inside Syria is about to be disrupted. In recent weeks there have been reports of Russian troop departures, possibly to the front line in Ukraine. We are likely to see further Russian withdrawals, creating more space for the Iranians. The Russian withdrawal from Syria could end up as a repeat of the American withdrawal from Iraq. This could mean that the Iraqi scenario – with its sectarian warfare, demographic shifts, armed terrorist militias, killings and displacements – is being replicated in Syria.
Things can even go further than that because Tehran has a terrorist project and hidden agendas. The outbreak of the Syrian revolution gave the Iranian Quds Force a justification to intervene in Iraq and Syria by working with Shiite militias in Iraq, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, which doubled its influence. Since 2014, Iran has taken a series of measures to strengthen its position in Syria and Lebanon, in particular its military presence, as well as the status of its proxies such as Hezbollah.
Therefore, Iran has adopted a policy of building strategic axes, including working to build a land corridor linking Tehran to Syria and Lebanon via Iraq. To gain a foothold on the Mediterranean coast, Iran has sought to use the Syrian seaport of Latakia. This corridor reinforces the Shiite environment, while allowing Iran to supply the Hezbollah army. It allows Tehran to appear before the Sunni world as an extended Shiite power in the region. He controls more than one Arab country and has combat experience that he can transfer to any area of ​​influence that interests him.

Iran has adopted a policy of building strategic axes, including working to build a land corridor linking Tehran to Syria and Lebanon via Iraq.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

Iran’s construction of a land route to facilitate the movement of military forces and weapons through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon will, of course, be under Iranian control and influence through the Guardian Corps. of the Islamic revolution and the armed Shiite militias. The objective is to diversify its modes of movement of forces and weapons according to the conditions on the ground.
Tehran has never announced its intention to build this corridor, as it realizes that using this land route has advantages and disadvantages related to its exposure to attacks from the United States, Israel and Sunni elements. who oppose it. But the Al-Qaim-Al-Bukamal border crossing between Syria and Iraq has been opened.
Several reports indicate that convoys of the IRGC and Iraqi Popular Mobilization units entered Syrian territory through the town of Al-Bukamal and headed towards the governorate of Deir Ezzor in the east. This means that Iran is already targeting the land link with Damascus for military purposes, which strengthens its ability to maintain its military presence in Syria. Certainly, US President Donald Trump’s decision in December 2018 to withdraw his troops from Syria has bolstered Iran’s ambitions to complete its land corridor.
Tehran wants to strengthen its long-term position in Syria, whether it is led by Bashar Assad or someone else. Iran’s project in Syria is not linked to the duration of the civil war, but rather to the consolidation of its own long-term interests in the region. The Russian withdrawal will give Tehran the greatest incentive to hastily implement its plans to control the region and occupy the largest geographical area of ​​it. As usual, he will use his terrorist militias and play functional roles for world powers in the region.
Thus, the strategic importance of this road lies in the fact that it is a corridor of influence, a corridor of trafficking and smuggling of arms to its proxies, and part of a trade route that brings together the various militias supported by Iran, in addition to being an outlet for them towards the Mediterranean.
Beyond that, we see terrorist militias affiliated with Tehran, led by Hezbollah, making successive and repeated attempts to smuggle drugs into Jordan. There was recently a clash between Hezbollah-linked smugglers and the Jordanian army, which resulted in the deaths of four of the smugglers.
The goal is to destabilize Amman and work to weaken it, with the ultimate goal of making it the fifth Arab capital occupied by Tehran. This would make it easier for Iran and its militias to threaten Saudi Arabia from the north.
Arab national security is needed today, not only to stop the expansion of the Iranian terrorist project, but to counter it, confront it and liberate the occupied Arab countries. This is the only way to stop the terrorism of Tehran and its militias and to block their path.

  • Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and specialist in international relations. Twitter: @drhamsher7

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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