“Iran’s Syria Strategy Is Coming Unravelled”

Yves here. This post is a reader critical thinking exercise, as well as a request for readers who are knowledgeable about the ongoing conflict in Syria, as in the US effort to remove Assad, to add or correct details.

We have occasionally run posts from the US organ Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty when they have seemed informative and fair minded. It’s important for an information outlet aspiring to become a significant voice in news and commentary to appear fact-based and objective.

What is striking about this article, as I read it with very limited knowledge about the conflict in Syria, is that it starts with a long history of Iran’s relationship to Syria which as far as I can tell seems accurate. Notice that the considerable detail helps to establish authority.

Its support for its headline claim comes late in the piece. It describes how Iran lost “more than a dozen” senior personnel in Syria since December as a result of Israel attacks on Damascus, including a supposedly key figure, General Sayyed Razi Musav. The story adds that the US hit Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp locations and friendly militias on the Iran-Syria border after the US lost three servicemembers, allegedly in Jordan, (many experts contend that the lack of consternation from Jordan means they were actually in Syria, which is a violation of international law and makes them fair targets). The article is silent on whether the US retaliatory attacks did meaningful damage.

The article also contends that Iran seeks to avoid taking direct action as if that policy is now under strain….yet offers no evidence that it has changed. It cites an exclusive Reuters report (I’ve found Reuters to be a decidedly mixed bag on geopolitical reporting) saying that Iran was going to rely more on militias than its own operatives as a result of the successful Israel attacks. That could well be true simply due to it taking time to replace so many established operatives.

At a minimum, the article did not substantiate its headline assertion. I would very much appreciate reader sanity checks.

By RFE/RL staff. Cross posted from OilPrice

  • ran sees Syria as a crucial partner in its resistance against Israel and the United States, with deep-rooted historical and strategic ties.
  • Recent escalations and direct confrontations in Syria have forced Iran to reassess its reliance on direct involvement and consider alternative strategies.
  • The complex geopolitical landscape in Syria poses challenges to Iran’s efforts to balance its regional interests while avoiding direct conflict with key adversaries.

Iran is eager to build on its longstanding alliance with Syria, but Tehran’s achievements in expanding its influence in the Arab country are threatening one of its primary objectives: staying out of the line of fire in its shadow wars in the Middle East.

As Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said earlier this month during a trip to Damascus on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tehran considers Syria to be on the front line of its “axis of resistance,” its loose network of proxies and Tehran-backed militant groups against Israel and the United States.

After meeting on February 11 with top Syrian officials and President Bashar al-Assad, Amir-Abdollahian stressed the important role Damascus plays in opposing its enemies and in establishing “stability and security” in the increasingly volatile region.

But while Iran’s top diplomat cited the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip as a position of strength for the axis and a stimulus of increased cooperation with Damascus, observers and media reports suggest that direct blowback against Iranian interests and personnel in Syria is prompting Tehran to recalculate its approach.

Generational Relationship

Iran has invested heavily into its relations with Syria for decades as part of the Shi’ite Islamic republic’s effort to export its revolution across the Arab and Muslim world.

“The Iranians made big inroads with Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current leader of Syria, when they issued a religious ruling that Alawites — the religion of the ruling family — were deemed to be an orthodox, or acceptable, sect of Shi’ism,” according to Thanassis Cambanis, director of the U.S.-based Century Foundation think tank.

The ruling was the first of many steps in “a really deep, generational, state-to-state relationship between Iran and Syria,” Cambanis said.

Ties strengthened further during the early rule of Bashar al-Assad following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“Assad was a relatively young ruler, he feared a U.S. invasion, and he found that a growing partnership in coordination with Iran kept him more secure in his own domestic power base, and also kept him more secure vis-a-vis the threat of some kind of U.S, or U.S.-orchestrated, regime-change project,” Cambanis said.

That bet appears to have paid off for both Iran and the Syrian government.

Assad remains securely in power despite the continuing Syrian civil war, in which Iran intervened militarily in 2013 in large part to prevent Assad’s ouster by the U.S.-backed opposition.

Tehran, meanwhile, has managed to significantly boost its influence in Syria without maintaining a significant military presence by deploying hundreds of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officers to recruit and train tens of thousands of local and foreign Shi’ite fighters.

“The actual number of IRGC forces is very limited,” said Hamidreza Azizi, a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, adding that the heavy lifting of the fighting in Syria is carried out by Afghans in the Fatemiyun Brigade and Pakistanis in the Zainabiyn Brigade, as well as by Iraqi militias.

Iran has also established a land corridor linking it to the Levant that Azizi described as the “logistical backbone of the axis of resistance.”

Apart from Iran, Syria is the only other state actor in the axis.

The corridor “is used by Iran to send arms and equipment to [Lebanese] Hizballah,” Azizi said, referring to the IRGC-created militant group that has rained missiles down on Israel since the start of the war in Gaza.

It is also used “to facilitate the back-and-forth deployment of troops on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border,” which Azizi said has essentially become an arena of operations for pro-Iran militias.

Success In Syria

Beginning in 2018, victories in the Syrian civil war allowed Iran to reduce its IRGC presence, Azizi said, with foreign mercenaries and local fighters it trained increasingly integrated into the Syrian armed forces. In a major contrast to the beginning of the war that erupted in 2011, Azizi added, most of the recruitment and training of forces in Syria was handed off by the IRGC to Hizballah.

Successes in Syria also allowed Tehran to buttress its defenses against the possibility of an attack on Iranian soil by Israel.

“Once Iran achieved its strategic objectives of securing the survival of the Assad regime and the overland corridor, the IRGC defined the new objective of establishing a new dormant front against Israel along the Israel-Syria border,” said Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “The purpose of the dormant front is to complicate Israeli calculations should the Jewish state decide to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

All the while, Iran has put pressure on Israel and the United States while maintaining its key objective of avoiding direct war, with the proxy fighters it trained and equipped absorbing most retaliatory blows in Syria.

“Since neither Syria nor Iran [is] interested in a direct war against Israel, the three states, through their actions, negotiated the rules of the game: The IRGC’s expendable allies such as the Afghans dig deep trenches and tunnels along the Israel border, Israel bombs the positions; Iran does not retaliate against Israel; and the Assad regime remains a spectator,” Alfoneh said in written comments.

“All three players still largely abide by these rules, which remain in place despite the Gaza war, and the U.S. neither is nor desires to get entangled in this game,” Azizi wrote.

Rules Broken

That is not to say those unspoken rules are not being broken following the outbreak of the war in Gaza sparked by the deadly October 7 assault on Israel carried out by Palestinian extremist group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Israel’s large-scale retaliation in Gaza has fueled attacks by the axis of resistance in solidarity with its partner Hamas and in the name of the Palestinian cause.

Hizballah has led the fight against Israel, while the Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen have launched attacks against Israel and U.S. naval forces in the Red Sea. And Iranian-backed forces have attacked U.S. forces in the Middle East, including a drone attack launched by an Iraqi militia that killed three U.S. troops in Jordan in January.

In Syria, U.S. forces stationed there to counter the Islamic State extremist group have been attacked regularly since the onset of the war in Gaza, including a February 5 drone attack that killed U.S.-allied Kurdish troops at the largest U.S. base in Syria, located in the eastern province of Deir al-Zur.

Amid the rising tensions, Tehran has not been able to avoid direct retaliation for its open support for its proxies and partners, and Iranian sites and personnel in Syria have been hit hard.

Since December, more than a dozen IRGC commanders and officers officially sent to Syria as advisers have been killed in strikes in and around Damascus blamed on Israel, including General Sayyed Razi Musavi, a senior adviser to the IRGC and one of Iran’s most influential military figures in Syria.

And the United States, in retaliation for the attack on its base in Jordan, in early February directly attacked IRGC sites and Iranian-backed militias on either side of the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Both the United States and Iran have said they do not seek war. And in Syria, Cambanis said, there are “certain rules of the road that are essentially designed to create useful fictions so that the U.S. and Iran do not end up in direct conflict with each other.”

But since the October 7 Hamas assault on Israel, Cambanis said, “there are so many forces attacking each other on Syrian territory that it’s really easy for just a mistake or a miscalculation that no one wanted.”

Recalculation Time?

In the wake of the killings of Musavi and other top IRGC personnel, an exclusive report by Reuters earlier this month cited multiple sources as saying Iran had scaled down its deployment of senior officers and would rely more on allied Sh’ite militias to maintain Iranian influence in Syria.

Azizi said that while previously, if Iranians were killed as the result of Israeli strikes in Syria, it was essentially written off as collateral damage.

“But now they are the targets,” Azizi said. “And that’s what concerns Iran, especially since the killing of Musavi.”

But while the deaths indicate a change in strategy by Israel that at the least “requires the Iranian side to change tactics,” Azizi suggested the redeployment was more about trying to determine possible leaks that may have allowed Israel to take out its officers and rethinking how Iran would use its personnel in the future.

Cambanis expressed skepticism that Iran would ever withdraw its advisers in Syria and hand their responsibilities over to the militias they trained.

“They have officers who speak Arabic, who have spent decades cycling in and out of different positions in Syria and other Arab countries. They have local knowledge, long-term relationships with local commanders,” Cambanis said. “They’re going to continue that model.”

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  1. furnace

    I’m not an expert in Syrian affairs, but this article seems to me to be an exercise in projection. It presumes things which are not demonstrable, such as knowing exactly what the Iranian leadership wants, and that it therefore has been thwarted by recent events. That Iran or anyone else in the region (besides the Zionists, of course) wants to avoid regional war, is pretty obvious; otherwise Tel Aviv and Beirut would now be in ruins. But this is a far cry from saying that given that the parties would prefer to avoid rebuilding all their infrastructure, they are unwilling to go to war, and that this war could not achieve their objectives (which are clear: expelling the US and the Zionists from the region).

    That the pen is preferable to the sword is hardly up for debate; but if there is no negotiation (how can you negotiate with génocidaires?) then war it is. And one of the sides is resurgent, whilst the other is quickly tumbling downhill, which makes this a very poor prospect for the murderous monsters.

    I’d like to draw attention to this quote, which to me is the crux that makes clear the objective of the piece:

    In Syria, U.S. forces stationed there to counter the Islamic State extremist group

    It has become clear over the years to even the most brainwashed person that no, the US is not in West Asia to stop extremists it itself funded as a destabilizing agent. First of all, it seems like ISIL is a pale figment of what it used to be, which can be dealt with by local armies (see: Kataib Hezbollah). Second, if the point was to help fight ISIL US troops would hardly need to occupy the most oil-rich and fertile part of Syria. No, they are there for clear imperialist reasons, and are doomed to have to evacuate the premises just like the Romans eventually had to leave Dacia and Britannia. This moment is being delayed as much as possible, but when it inevitably happens then Iran will have a direct supply line to Lebanon. And if the Zionist Entity is in dire straits now, it shall be utterly doomed when that comes to pass.

    Finally, this piece neglects to mention the normalization of relations in West Asia brought by Chinese mediation and Oct. 7th inducting Assad back to the Arab League. So in fact, if Iran is losing troops in Syria, it is also gaining ground in many other ways. And the major difference between the génocidaires and the Resistance is that dying for the former is a vile deed, propped up by the most ghoulish propaganda; dying for the latter is simple martyrdom on the path to Al-Quds. You can’t overcome this difference in conviction.

    1. Feral Finster

      “I’m not an expert in Syrian affairs, but this article seems to me to be an exercise in projection.”

      Further along those lines, perhaps the author of this article could tell us how exactly Iran is “exporting its revolution”?

    2. clarky90

      Re; “…..an exercise in projection.”


      1 Narcissistic Psychopaths

      2 Warning Signs of Narcissistic Psychopaths

      2.1 Lack of Empathy
      2.2 Inability To Take Criticism
      2.3 Grandiose Sense of Self
      2.4 Manipulative Behavior
      2.5 Delusional Behavior
      2.6 Exploitive Behaviour
      2.7 Constant Need of Admiration
      2.8 Selfishness And Greediness

      3 How To Deal When You See Warning Signs Of Narcissistic Psychopath?

      3.1 Reach Out To Help
      3.2 Try To Support Them
      3.3 Avoid Being Angry With Them
      3.4 Help Them To Find Support Groups

      4 Conclusion

      “In conclusion, there are many warning signs of narcissistic psychopaths. If you see any of these signs in a government that you know, it’s best to stay away and keep your distance. This government/country may be dangerous and could have no regard for your safety or well-being. Get help if you need it and make sure that you keep yourself safe.”

      1. clarky90

        I edited the following original text, but didn’t indicate the edits! oops….

        “If you see any of these signs in someone that you know, it’s best to stay away and keep your distance. This person may be dangerous and could have no regard for your safety or well-being. Get help if you need it and make sure that you keep yourself safe.”

  2. Louis Fyne

    1. re. casualties, I see this often, Western secular media writers can’t conceive that—yes, dying stinks, but dying in meaningful service of a cause that one believes in is not a loss; and of course in this case, a beeline to heaven.

    2. as Solemani’s death demonstrates, Iranian efforts is not organizational dependent on one person or job title.

  3. Adam1

    I am not an expert on any of this, but I totally agree they did not even come close to presenting an argument that Iran’s strategy is Syria is coming unraveled. At best, they provided evidence that Iran has or is making some tactical changes, but one would expect tactics to change as event unfold.

    A more general item this reminds me of is that it seems to be a common theme these days with people who are publishing articles that have very interesting titles. Too many of them usually provide a lot of interesting information, but then abruptly end without any real conclusion; like where’s the next 2 pages of anticipated discussion/analysis.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Yes, headlines like, “Ukraine’s clever tactics are hindering russians advances and frustrating Putin”.

      Wow, that sounds fascinating. Article goes on to list random crap that amounts to very little like striking Kerch bridge and sinking that random amphibious landing ship in the Black Sea.

  4. ChrisFromGA

    The phrase “despite the continuing Syrian civil war,” is a bit of a tell.

    That is an extremely misleading characterization. There hasn’t been any sort of observable, home-grown opposition to the Syrian government for many years. What really happened was that Assad won the war, at the price of having cede territory to both Turkey in Idlib, and the east where the US supports the Kurds who have some control over an autonomous region. Essentially a triangle, which is inherently unstable.

    One false statement doesn’t negate the entire thesis, but it does make it suspect.

    1. Skip Intro

      As furnace noted above, the piece also claims the illegal US occupation is about fighting ISIS, rather than supporting them in their fight against the Syrian government.
      So two statements driving a false DoD narrative, a thrust that reeks of colonial delusion, and the mysterious absence of Russia from the story must make it even more suspect.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        Thats what comes of giving credibility to “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty” – CIA sponsored propaganda – as the Irish say “what can you expect of a (CIA) pig but a grunt”.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I wouldn’t quite call that territory “ceded”, maybe just rented for $0 per month for awhile until the time is right to get it back???

  5. DJG, Reality Czar

    Characterizing Hamas as an extremist terrorist organization certainly set the tone.

    The “generational” history goes much longer. The article suffers from the usual Anglosphere idea that all conflicts are personal. “Putin” is always doing something, as is Bashar Assad. Not to let the Assad family off the hook–they are indeed butchers.

    But: How did Syria get where it is historically, an authoritarian state run by means of repression?


    Yep. The U S of A started horsing around in Syria as early as 1948, a mere five years after Syrian independence. So one can see why the Syrians want to keep the U.S. of A out of Syria–it’s a “generational” problem.

    The case of Iran is better known among Americans: the 1953 coup against Mossadegh and reinstallation of Reza Pahlavi:


    The U S government could have cultivated decent relations with both countries. As Yves Smith sometimes reminds us, there is too often a sense among U.S. decision makers that one must “do something.” Overthrowing governments isn’t all that hard for a superpower. Yet the Syrian/Iranian alliance that the article frets over has a good historical basis, and if the U S government wanted the Syrians or Iranians to be more tractable, the U S government could work to lessen tensions. Which won’t happen, because the unending proxy war in Israel is so profitable and convenient.

    1. pjay

      – “Not to let the Assad family off the hook–they are indeed butchers.”

      It’s probably not fair for me to single out one sentence from a comment with which I mainly agree, but I was just curious as to what you refer here. Certainly the Mukhabarat is brutal, and Bashar al-Assad’s father was was pretty unforgiving toward his many enemies, especially salafist rebels. But “butchers,” to me, calls forth the demon image of Bashar manufactured by Western propagandists to justify their own regime change efforts, including the so-called “Ceasar” sanctions, and sway the tender hearts of “humanitarian” liberals. I realize “butchers” is a relative term that can always be applied to all sides in wartime. But as applied to Bashar al-Assad, it suggests the bloodthirsty and sadistically irrational dictator of the “Assad files” propaganda who would torture tens of thousands to death and not hesitate to gas his enemies – a devil with whom rational people cannot negotiate. This caricature of the former mild-mannered London ophthalmologist has always been pretty absurd, but also contributes to the overall obfuscation.

      1. JonnyJames

        The double standards of calling names: “brutal regime” “butchers” etc.

        Given the context of illegal bombing of Syria by Israel, illegal occupation, US/UK/Israel funded “terrorist” militants, the Genocide of Palestine etc, the West has no business criticizing other countries in that way. The hypocrisy and double standards are staggering as usual.

        The US/UK destroyed Iraq, based on a pack of willful, transparent lies, and it is still a failed state as a result. They mass murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people. That fact alone makes the name-calling tragically humorous. Anyone who has seen the Collateral Murder video released by Wikileaks years ago will have a very graphic image to underline this.

        (And Assange is being made an example of for exposing the lies and hypocrisy so graphically)

        1. JonnyJames

          Not to mention Tony Bliar. In the US/UK they are not called “brutal” “butchers”, they are lauded as great senior statesmen and they are showered with money and prestige for their “service”.

    2. Jams O'Donnell

      “Not to let the Assad family off the hook–they are indeed butchers.”

      Why single out Assad, when exactly the same, for the same reasons, (but usually on a much larger scale) could be said of most 20/21st century US presidents? (Not to mention UK, German, Italian and assorted others).

  6. DavidZ

    my opinion is this is full on propaganda piece.

    “Once Iran achieved its strategic objectives of securing the survival of the Assad regime and the overland corridor, the IRGC defined the new objective of establishing a new dormant front against Israel along the Israel-Syria border,” said Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “The purpose of the dormant front is to complicate Israeli calculations should the Jewish state decide to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

    All the while, Iran has put pressure on Israel and the United States while maintaining its key objective of avoiding direct war, with the proxy fighters it trained and equipped absorbing most retaliatory blows in Syria.

    – For a long time Syria didn’t control the border with Israel around the Golan Heights. It was under the control of “terrorists/militants/freedom fighters” supported by Israel. I don’t remember exactly when Syria finally kicked them out of that area, but it was fairly recently.
    – Syria, AFAIK, doesn’t really attack Israel. What I read in the news is Israel bombing Damascus, Aleppo Airports and other attacks, so how exactly Syria is a threat to Israel is questionable. It’s hardly able to defend itself at the moment.
    – Iran put pressure on US/Israel is laughable on the face of it. I think it’s the other way around where US & Israel are always pressuring Iran via let’s see – murder of General Soleimani, Bombing pipelines, implementing sanctions, stealing oil etc.

    This is only for these 2 paragraphs – the whole article is a bunch of other rubbish.

    1. CA

      My opinion is this is full on propaganda piece.

      “Once Iran achieved its strategic objectives of securing the survival of the Assad regime and the overland corridor, the IRGC defined the new objective of establishing a new dormant front against Israel along the Israel-Syria border,” said Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “The purpose of the dormant front is to complicate Israeli calculations should the Jewish state decide to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

      [ Simply read this purposely prejudiced, inflammatory passage. ]

    2. Kouros

      The threat to Israel comes from a stronger Syria, allied with a stronger Iran and at minimum a neutral Iraq, that could reasert its rights over Golan Heights and start doing something about that… As such, an immiserated Syria, same as an immisserated Palestinian population will always benefit Israel.

  7. Marc

    Hard to see this commentary as a serious analysis without any mention of the nation (Russia) with the strongest air domain assets/capabilities in the theater and one of other partners in setting the “rules” for how the various sides conduct kinetic actions to avoid all out war.

    1. JW

      I agree. And with the growing Russia/Iran alliance this appears to be a deliberate omission which leaves me doubtful of its authenticity.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Good catch that. The Russians have a coupla bases there and were responsible for retraining the Syrian military in taking out the tens of thousands of armed jihadists that the west was pumping into Syria. The Israelis may have fun and games bombing Iranian commanders in Syria but I do not think that they are game to try that with the Russians. They tend to shoot back which is an unnerving thing for the Israeli military.

    3. CA

      The United States from as early as 2012, became actively involved in overturning the Syrian government. Syria in 2014 asked Russia for assistance and Russia agreed. From the time Russia began to support the Syrian government, US efforts at overturning the government faltered.

      Prominent Democrats in particular wished to destroy the Syrian government and Russian defense of Syria was a prime source of resentment. When Syria was falsely accused of using poison gas, as a way of further involving the US in destroying the government, Representative Tulsi Gabbard bravely went to Syria to investigate the charges and keep the US from directly attacking Syria.

      Gabbard was correctly convinced that Syria had not used poison gas, and came to be proven correct, but Gabbard was immediately attacked by prominent Democrats who wanted the destruction of Syria.

      Gabbard was a truly heroic figure in saving Syria and keeping the US from all out war, and has been resented by leading Democrats ever since.

        1. Feral Finster

          Not to mention the weakling Trump twice attacked Syria on the flimsiest of pretexts, although he also twice tried to leave but cucked out both times.

      1. CA

        Prominent Democrats in particular wished to destroy the Syrian government:


        Neera Tanden ✔@neeratanden

        People of Hawaii’s 2nd district – was it not enough for you that your representative met with a murderous dictator? Will this move you?


        CNN‏ ✔@CNN

        Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: “Yes, I’m skeptical” of claim Assad regime is behind chemical weapons attack

        7:32 PM – 7 Apr 2017

      2. CA


        Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald

        This New York Times article about @TulsiGabbard is perfect. It belongs in a museum to show how the NYT & DNC smear anyone who expresses any dissenting views: accuse them of serving RUSSIA & white nationalists, quote Neera Tanden & Laura McCarthy Rosenberg, etc.


        What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?

        6:56 AM – 12 Oct 2019

        1. JonnyJames

          But If she takes a stand against her Israeli friends, she will get the Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul treatment. She is pro-Israel, I’m sorry but to me that is just typical two-faced political hypocrisy. Gabbard is not as controversial as some think, but its good political theater.

    4. CA

      Hard to see this commentary as a serious analysis without any mention of the nation (Russia) with the strongest air domain assets/capabilities in the theater and one of other partners in setting the “rules” for how the various sides conduct kinetic actions to avoid all out war.

      [ From the time Russia was asked and agreed to save Syria from terrorizing attacks, President Putin became a “thug” in the New York Times and in the Obama White House. The very term then came to be used to describe President Putin, over and over again:


      September 15, 2015

      Obama Weighing Talks With Putin on Syrian Crisis

      WASHINGTON — Mr. Obama views Mr. Putin as a thug, according to advisers and analysts… ]

  8. ilsm

    Odious. RFE is a US mouthpiece! Mostly selling a “view” that needs critical thinking to see the underlying narrative! US “bases” in Syria, Jordan and Iraq are training “compliant” terror groups.

    This might be interesting:


    Each time I see Iran-backed I think the Suni Shi’a split, which since FDR accord with the Saudi royals puts USA on the Sunni side. The recently faded Saudi rapprochement to Israel was US attempt to get the Sunni in line with defending Israel against the Shi’a.

    The resistance axis is growing more Sunni! Since Gaza Oct 2023 the Sunni-Israel shift is reversing (?).

    Syria civil war was more US instigated and resourced attempt to give Syria to ‘al Qaeda light’.

    Body count is so Vietnam!

    What Sanchez’ substack gets to: US bases, spread all over the not so scared (neocons decide what country is sacred homeland) homelands, are “tripwires” to entice resistance attacks to excuse bombing for the body count!

    Long story short: US has no career in running a war like Israel runs, distance, transport, supplies, etc make it a trap where the resistance can attrit despite headline killed in action. No career for US running a Vietnam or even Desert Storm level air campaign over the tripwire bases.

    Israel’s A bombs! That leads to “a major blow to the tripwire network” is prevented bc Israel is using its genocide in Gaza as implication it would use the nuclear option!

    Gaza genocide is saying we will use the bomb!

    Iran does not want escalation!

    RFE excuse perma-war! under Israeli A bombs.

  9. JohnH

    I’m not an expert either. Shia Muslims represent a significant minority in the country, and there are important pilgrimage sites that attract many from afar. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, they have religious and cultural bonds with Shia Iran and with Iraqi and Yemeni Shia. The killing of the Caliph Ali by the Sunni remains important to this day and to some at least brings a deep sense of shared victimhood and persecution, which is only aggravated by current events in the Middle East. Khomeini was apparently instrumental in calling attention to the similarity between yesteryear and today.

    As with Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, Iranians probably have little need to be on site in Syria. They probably have little local military presence, other than perhaps as advisors and coordinators.

    It is important to keep in mind that in Israeli and State Department shorthand, any Shia is an Iranian. As Israel takes out leaders of the resistance, they will be identified as “Iranian” not matter their nationality…except in Lebanon, where Hezbollah’s separate identity gets noticed….sometimes.

    In any event, the US and Israel may take out “Iranians” but they are unlikely to diminish the indigenous resistance because of their shared culture and religion.

    1. pjay

      This is a very useful discussion for those who are not familiar with the historical context. Gowans’ articles on Syria, and his book on the subject, are all good in my opinion. However, I haven’t read much from him since Feb. 24 2022. On that date something happened to him, a serious case of Putin-derangement, and his writing on Ukraine (which used to be good as well) suddenly started sounding like something from the Atlantic Council. Sad. Hopefully he has wised up some, but I haven’t kept up with him since then.

      Still, I’d recommend this article highly as an antidote to the mainstream narrative on the Syrian war.

    2. iread

      This article dates to june 2011. The uprising in Daara was in March 2011.
      I think Meyssan has been situated in Damascus a fair amount but couldn’t
      verify that from wiki because his entry is confined to his ruining his reputation
      and that of his once respected site with the book he published early on about 9/11.
      The Big Lie.

  10. Taufiq Al-Thawry

    Agree with most all of the commentary above, but as commenter ‘furnace’ noted: “this article seems to me to be an exercise in projection”

    Perhaps consider an alternative title and the depth to which it could be evidenced, sourced and supported:

    Instead of: “Iran’s Syria Strategy Is Coming Unravelled”

    How about: “The US Syria Strategy Is Coming Unravelled”

    Or maybe: “The US Middle East Strategy Is Coming Unravelled”

    I mean the USAF literally had an airman self-immolate in an impossible-to-ignore “extreme act of protest” against the extremely unpopular genocide, which Hamas honored in a statement. Now, I’m in San Antonio where Bushnell is from, but I assume (perhaps incorrectly) the story is getting mainstream coverage everywhere and am confident it is being shared widely everywhere through social media and such. There continues to be hundreds of thousands regularly pouring out into the streets. The US has been on the losing side in 4 sub-theaters since 2000 – Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon with Palestine in the balance and the SA-Iran rapproachment as well. US imperialism and backing of Zionism in the region is truly unraveling, domestically, internationally and in the region. It’s very hard to credibly make the case otherwise

    1. vao

      Most important European newspapers (such as Le Monde) did not even mention the event or at best buried it as a short note.

  11. Skip Intro

    At risk of sanction for not reading the article, only Yves’ intro, I will state that the summary reminds me of the genre of stories about Al Quaeda’s #2 getting killed, and the long tradition of ‘kill the headman’ style colonial discipline.

  12. jefemt

    Not sure if this is of any additional edification:
    I am reading “Countdown”, by Alan Weisman (highly recommend!) which deals with population over-reach as the key lynchpin to The Jackpot. Written 2013. First chapter is the war of the womb, — in Gaza! Palestinians and devout Jews both trying to outgun the other under the sheer weight of numbers of people. That little area has some of the worlds highest human population densities. Israel’s biomes and ecosystems are fragile and facing collapse.

    The book goes all over the world, but… huzzah, one of the Nation- states with the lowest population increase/ decline is– Iran.
    In the chapter on Iran, it is observed that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard is a cross between the Military, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Mafia. They receive all infrastructure contracts, and they have make-work projects all over Iran (Bridge to Nowhere) that keep people busy, fed, and in-line, much to the detriment in most cases to the natural world.

    How it relates to Syria? Faith, army, and business all are integrally aligned, and make for powerfully incentivized populace. Follow The Money. The US is not the only one with significant skin in the M I C game!
    Seems to me Syria and Iran are hardly ‘breaking apart’, despite the wishes of the Emperialists running the show in Washington… The mid-east is a S L I C C* for the US MIC**.
    My sense is this will not end well for Israel, and we likely will see Nukes deployed when Israel is overwhelmed and cornered. And it would not surprise my if it is the US that pulls the trigger, in its proxy status to Israel, and as the US firmly formalizes that it is a Christian Nation ™

    * SLICC Self-licking Ice cream cone. Joe Biden Likes Ice-cream cones!
    ** MIC Military Industrial complex. Apologies for jargon. I am slothful.

    I remain, steadfastly, Mr. Happy.

    PS If you haven’t read Weisman, do so. “The World Without Us” and “Countdown” are- simply- incredible.

  13. Bemildred

    I have read a couple times now in obscure sources that Op. Al Aqsa Flood resulted in considerable compromise of Israeli spooks and intelligence, stolen hard drives, etc., and I think the Israeli attacks on Hezbollah and IRGC since then are a reaction to that. They have been blinded/exposed and are lashing out. This article looks like narrative management for that situation.

    Hezbollah has certainly been effective in clearing out N. Israel, and the inability of the IDF to find Hamas and its tunnels also indicates problems.


  14. Kooshy

    Well writing up this article in “oil Price.com” a known hostile outlet to Iran and then re publishing on a known CIA outlet, Radio Free Europe/Farda is basically signaling that the Americans a re preparing to Leave Syria. Iran, Russia and Hizbollah will not leave the area they never did. After overt war with Israel and US by Resistance front cost of the war is increasing on the US and it seems no one beside UK is willing to join.

  15. JonnyJames

    The previous comments have it pretty much covered. RFE/VOA etc are long-time CIA outlets

    The choice of language and discourse is telling:
    “Syrian civil war”, “Iranian-backed Huthis” “Israel’s large scale retaliation”

    US/Israel (illegal) proxy war against Syria would be more accurate. As mentioned, the omission of Russia in this is also telling. Russian forces were invited by the Syrian govt. (“the Assad regime”)

    The Houthis, as covered in a post a week or two ago, are an independent force not dependent on Iran as the media wants us to believe. Iran-backed is just a smear in that regard.

    Israel’s “retaliation” was nothing of the sort, as we well know. Israel knew about the “Hamas attacks” and numerous lies about it were repeated ad nauseam in the western MassMedia. The context of illegal occupation of Palestine, Golan Heights, nor the genocidal actions of Israel are mentioned. (Neither is the flagrant violations of the US AECA mentioned, but that is a larger issue)

    Also, the US military presence in Syria is illegal (UN Charter and thus US domestic law). I would think that should be mentioned in this context.

    The US/Israel (and UK sidekicks) can be seen as a lawless and reckless aggressor in this context.

    1. Roland

      “Civil war” is a fair description of what has happened in Syria since 2012.

      If one pretends that it isn’t a civil war, then one will fail to recognize Assad’s essential political success, in regaining the allegiance of numerous Syrian factions and regions that had earlier opposed him, to the extent that, by 2020, at least a quarter of his frontline troops had formerly been rebels. Without Assad’s political acumen and personal qualities of leadership, the loyalist side would have lost the war, regardless of Russian, Iranian, or Lebanese help.

      In my opinion, Syria’s has been a classic civil war: polygonal, protracted, and indecisive.

      It’s a rare civil war that doesn’t involve outsiders, whether state or non-state. The longer and bigger the civil war, the more likely and more serious the outside involvements. At the minimum, if there hadn’t been a significant number of Syrians willing to take up arms against their government, outside forces would have had nothing to work with, and their efforts would have amounted to no more than a “Bay of Pigs” kind of fiasco.

  16. Willow

    What the article doesn’t point out is that Syria has always been a contested space between Türkiye, Arab states and Iran, though with differing objectives. A developing Entente Cordiale would suggest these countries backing off when it comes to more direct conflict of objectives (being mindful of other’s toes). To the extent that Türkiye, Arabs and Iran are now cooperating to reinforce support of Syria and al-Assad. Breakdown in Arab/West relations (part due to woke, part due to now evident military & economic weakness of the West) means that its in Iran’s interest to step back and allow Sunni countries assert themselves into the geopolitical conflict. Morphing the conflict from Shia centric to a broad Middle East Islamic resistance against the West. And it’s this morphing that US seems to fundamentally underappreciate and how it has the potential to explode into a wider global Islamic resistance. Whether though lack of political deference to US in geopolitical and economic matters or more local forms of ‘terrorism’ against the West.

    Regarding the point of US assassinations of Iranians. Unlike West’s woke institutions, Iran has plenty of depth in both its military and civilian activities to absorb human damage. Primarily because Iran education system churns out people with skills that are needed. A huge number of engineers (like Russia..). US holds too much faith in Ayn Rand style beliefs that world is held together by singular geniuses like Musk. When the converse is more true: singular morons are more likely to rise to the top when there isn’t a broad stock of competent people in the system. Something to which UK class-system is particularly prone (e.g. bully boy Boris) and one of the key problems of woke.

  17. Polar Socialist

    I guess it irks me the most in this article that it’s only looking at the issue from the simplistic point of view that Iran (and the axis of resistance) exists only to make life difficult for US and Israel. That it’s very raison d’etre is to rebel against the hegemon and his boss.

    It doesn’t bother to look what is Iran’s long term strategy and why it collides with US agenda in the area. Maybe it’s because it looks like Iran is trying to build peace, stability and prosperity in the area, while Israel is not. Because of it’s (US induced) pariah status Iran is free from the chains of IMF and World Bank, so it can actually create, with the Arab world (and BRICS), a West Asian powerhouse that Israel just can’t compete with. Not economically nor militarily.

  18. Mr Kloop

    The situation in the Middle East is incredibly complicated and understanding who supports who on all sides is very difficult to establish clearly. We do know that Iran does not have a land border with Syria, but with Iraq, whose position in the tensions is unclear. We do know the Kurds are sympathetic with the Israeli’s due to the support that Israel has provided Kurdish militias with weapons and money and “de-facto” recognition of Kurdistan in return for kurdish oil shipments and frontline operational spying bases. Iraq’s majority Shia population provides Iran with ready made militias in Iraq. We know the US has bases in Iraq, Syria and Jordan to allow US spying activity to continue on all sides, as well as to protect US assets continuing to extract critical resources from these countries (e.g. The Kurds). Where these resources are going is unknown. We know that Iran is shipping armaments support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria through the Russian Air base at Khmeimim in Syria as a safety precaution from Israeli attack. We know that Hezbollah is attacking Israeli military outposts on the Lebanese border to create surveillance black spots and the Israeli’s are retaliating by attacking the Southern Lebanese population. We know that the US is applying mainly financial pressure on Egypt to prepare to allow fleeing Palestinians to enter into the Sinai peninsula as part of the current Israeli governments ethnic cleansing policy in Gaza. We know that most Arab countries don’t want millions of Palestinians entering across their borders and becoming huge ethnic minorities. We know that the Russians are applying significant pressure on the Syrian military and Iranian militia groups not to shoot down Israeli warplanes with Russian supplied air defense systems. We know that Iran is supplying Russia with the majority of their “drone fleet” for the war in Ukraine. We know that Turkey is not keen on the Kurds in Syria or Iraq. We know that Turkey provides the Palestinians with vocal support, yet continues to conduct critical trade with Israel. We know Saudi Arabia and the UAE etc will not introduce an “oil embargo” to cripple Israel. We know the Houthis are well supplied by Iran with weapons to blockade the Red Sea shipping lanes when required, despite the US and UK doing everything in their power to bomb the Houthis back into the Stone Age. And that’s what we do know. What we don’t know is a far longer list i suspect. Trying to work out how to keep all sides happy at the moment is the “Impossible Puzzle”. Good luck Mr Blinken with that.

  19. Rain Lewis

    I suggest Kevork on his vid channel “Syriana Analysis. I believe he is a Syrian-born and raised journalist of Armenian ancestry, now living in Germany. I have been following him for years, he started the channel several years ago to relate corrected information on Syria and the region. He has some excellent maps too, highlighting the geographical strategic importance of the USUKIS occupation, with surrounding US-backed Al Quaeda, IS positions etc as well as the Kurds. While they have been relatively quiet for some years, the US has been known to “activate” its proxies from time to time.

    When he first arrived in Germany, he was struck by how many people he met, who were otherwise very knowledgeable about Israel/Palestine for example, but rabidly anti-Assad, and anti-Syria. He and some of his co-panelists discussed this at length in one video… to arrive at a conclusion that these people must have been “Al Jazeer’ed”. Al-Jazeera can be quite trustworthy on reporting some West Asian issues, but not Syria. Qatar, among other things, has a strong Muslim Brotherhood presence, and the MB hates Syria and Assad
    with a passion.

    The US has just recently passed new sanction legislation against Syria, aimed at other West Asian countries, to prevent them from supporting Syria economically, in retaliation for Syria’s re-entry in the Arab League.
    Kevork has run long video discussions on this legislation, including one or two, on the pro-Palestinian Congresswoman who is promoting the anti-Syrian legislation.

    With the Axis-of-Resistance, Syria and Iraq are the most fragile, weakest links, both finding it difficult to recover from being bombed back to the Stone Age with crippling sanctions, entrenched US occupation on critical lands including agriculture, their oil stolen, trade routes blocked etc.

  20. Roland

    As mentioned, the contents don’t match the headline. As articles on the subject go, it’s not all that bad. It’s slanted, but within the bounds of what I can accept in journalism.

    The authors actually acknowledge how Iran’s enlightened and tolerant policies helped to forge enduring alliances in both Syria and Lebanon. They also acknowledge that Iran achieved its policy goals in Syria with relatively slender means. Further, they acknowledge that both Iran and the Arab states are trying to manage their differences without escalation.

    If anything, it seems like Washington’s media organ is trying to teach Washington’s officialdom how to make foreign policy, sugar-coating the pill with a headline they could bear to read.

    The only overtly propagandistic claim is that Iran wants tension on the Golan frontier. I think that’s rubbish. The Syrians have endured, and continue to endure, many insults in their desire to avoid a clash with Israel.

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