Deep influence: A new study on the Iranian role in re-engineering Syrian society

The Harmon Center for Contemporary Studies has issued an extensive study on the Iranian role in Syria, consisting of three sections which analyze the reasons for Iranian interference in Syria and the tools it has used, as well as its policy of re-engineering Syrian society, warning that Iran’s deep influence is likely to continue, even if the Assad regime falls and the ruling order is restructured under a new system.

The importance of the study lies in highlighting the danger of demographic tampering, and the political, economic, cultural and educational hegemony that Iran has created over the Syrian society and state, due to the support and complicity of the Syrian regime, and Iran’s ambitions to impose its influence on Syria, and the effects of these policies on the future of Syria and the composition of its social fabric.

The study indicates that the close relationship between the Syrian regime and the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran began from the first days of its establishment. Despite Hafez al-Assad’s support for Iran in the war with Iraq, which was led by the second section of the Baath Party itself, Hafez al-Assad was keen on safeguarding the regime’s survival and maintaining balance in his relationship with the Arab regimes, especially Saudi Arabia, while ensuring that Iran would not wield influence inside Syria. However, this balance began to unravel, after Bashar al-Assad assumed power after inheriting leadership from his father; Iran’s influence began to penetrate deeper into Syrian society, and launched activities promoting Shiism and establishing Husseiniyas there, but this remained limited, as the regime feared a societal and wider Arab reaction. However, Iran’s influence among the Alawite officers, in the army and security, was gradually growing.

The study notes that after the start of the Arab Spring revolutions, the Syrian regime became concerned and began to fear the possibility of this revolutionary movement coming to Syria, at which stage Iran’s regime was ready to offer its absolute support to Bashar al-Assad and his regime, prompting him to show a rigid stance towards the peaceful civil movement, and not show any flexibility, and encouraging him to use violence, sending military officers, Internet experts, and well trained snipers.

According to the study, Iran’s regime saw Assad’s involvement in an internal conflict as an opportunity to place him in a weak position that would open the door to its own extensive intervention in the army, state agencies, society and the economy, and thus enable it to control Syria, as well as Iraq and Lebanon.

The study confirms that the relationship between Assad and the Iranian regime, which was one of allies, has qualitatively changed to become a relationship of dependence and domination, in which the mullahs’ regime in Tehran exercises all forms of power, military, security, economic, political and cultural, over Syrian institutions, with the speeches of General Qassem Soleimani (former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s so-called Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) prior to his assassination making this control clear to the leaders of the Syrian regime, with some treating him as the actual ruler of Syria.

The important study on Iran’s control over the various components of the state indicated that its influence in Syria was not solely the result of military hegemony. The Iranian regime’s penetration into all aspects of the Syrian state has been multi-faceted, diverse in influence, and of a dominant nature that depends on planning and the sustainability of impact and influence, which is what should be paid attention to, treating it as a deep influence, which is likely to continue, even if the Assad regime falls and a new regime is built.

Regarding Iran’s full entry into the war in Syria, the study stressed that the battle of al-Qusayr, west of Homs, in early 2013, constituted a major turning point in Iran’s military strategy in Syria, during which Tehran moved from the stage of supporting the Assad regime forces, logistically, and through intelligence and training, to the stage of appointing IRGC personnel directly to lead battles and military operations.

According to the study, Iran has penetrated at all levels, social, economic and cultural, so that Iranian interference is the most prominent actor in the Syrian scene, and the most impactful among the international interventions in Syria. It has contributed greatly to the disruption of Syrian society, and to the creation of future hotbeds of tension and explosion, by supporting sectarian entities at the expense of others, and distorting the social balance.

The study predicts great difficulty in any effort to force Tehran to accept any reduction in its influence or to retreat from Syria, and dismantle its structures and positions on Syrian soil, without experiencing losses and being forced to make bitter concessions, which would not happen without major and decisive shifts in the balance of power, inside Syria and in its regional surroundings.

From Shaam News Network (S.N.N.).
Original (in Arabic):