Iran’s Goals in Syria

Lynx Fellow Samuel Deline

Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Syria has become a critical area of interest for regional, and world powers as the outcome will determine crucial factors for the future of Middle Eastern Politics; mainly because Syria has long held an essential role in the regional and long-term goals of Iran. Therefore, should the Assad regime lose control of Syria the consequences for Iran would be monumental as it would result in the loss of one of Iran’s most crucial allies in the region and a critical piece in Iran’s foreign policy?

According Shahram Akbarzadeh “The Syrian crisis has become a critical theatre of war for the three-way alliance between Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, celebrated as the “axis of resistance” in Tehran” in order to counter the regional dominance of the United and Israel as well as preventing Saudi Arabia from expanding its sphere influences Iran needs to keep the Assad regime in power. The term “axis of resistance” touches on a key aspect of Iran’s global strategy; the “resistance” of Israeli and US regional dominance.

Since the Iranian/Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has facilitated an image of Iran being the paragon of Islamic resistance against what they view as the imperialist United States and its proxy nation of Israel. Iran has used Assad- controlled Syria to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Maintaining this triad will allow Iran to continue its current path. However, while the “axis of resistance” enables Iran to put pressure on Israel and deter the US, Iran’s primary goal is to become the regional hegemon. As a result, Syria has become another proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

According to Neil Quilliam,  “Both countries appear to view the region as a chequerboard and see their relations in zero-sum terms.”; sticking to this view Saudi Arabia sees an opportunity in Syria to weaken the influence of Iran and has therefore jumped at the opportunity. Saudi Arabia’s strategy has mostly been supporting Sunni militias fighting the Assad regime. In response, Iran has done what it can to provide support to Assad, mostly of through Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran wants to maintain its “axis of resistance” but does realize that to become the dominant regional power in the Middle East it needs to develop its relationship with the west. As such Iran is hesitant to offer direct support for Assad but still involves itself in the conflict to the degree that protects its interest.

Overall, the waning power of the Assad regime in Syria has implications for the regional politics of the Middle East. As a result, Iran has committed to supporting the Assad Regime through its ally Hezbollah. Should the Assad regime lose power Iran will lose its only strategic partner in the Arab world and Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia will gain the upper hand in the Levant and a significant component of Iran’s foreign policy will be lost.

 

 

 

References

Akbarzadeh, Shahram. (2016). Why does Iran need Hizbullah? The Muslim World : A Quarterly Review of History, Culture, Religions & the Christian Mission in Islamdom., 106(1), 127-140.

 

Akbarzadeh, Shahram. (2016). State Identity in Iranian Foreign Policy. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies., 43(4), 613-629.

 

Shanahan, Rodger. (2017). Hizbullah as a regional brand: Not all parties are equal. Australian Journal of International Affairs., 71(2), 201-215.

 

 

Tzemprin, Athina. (2015). The Middle East Cold War: Iran-Saudi Arabia and the Way Ahead. Politička Misao., 52(4/5), 187-202.

 

Quilliam, N. (2017). SAUDI ARABIA’S SYRIA POLICY (I. Galariotis & K. Ifantis, Eds.). THE SYRIAN IMBROGLIO: INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL STRATEGIES,20-26. Retrieved March 27, 2018.