Iran began its military involvement in syria in 2011, at the outbreak of the civil war. Amid the widely spread perception that the united state is slowly but surely disengaging from the middle east, iranian leaders are grappling with formulating a strategy to benefit from such. A top commander of the quds force of iran s islamic revolutionary guards corps, chizari was hit with sanctions. Heavy meddle michael singh wall street journal may 27, 2011 if the asad regime falls in syria, a key link in iran s strategic chain across the region would be broken. In fact, soleimani was known to be the mastermind behind iran s strategy to keep syrian president bashar alassad in power and then to fight the islamic state is in syria and iraq. Iran would not be able to maintain its current level of support to assad. Why trumps iran strategy will backfire the washington post. Its mission is to be an analytical, researchled global forum for informing, influencing and.
Trump, in consultation with his national security team, has approved a new strategy for iran. Syria provides iran with vital strategic depth, allowing it to project power through the levant, and gives it a gateway to hezbollah, enhancing iranian deterrence of israel. Iran will not abandon its equities there easily and is likely to expand its role in syria should the assad regime survive. Israeli officials are also concerned at the prospect of a territorial corridor controlled by iranlinked fo rces stretching via iraq into syria and. Opposition gains in syria have interdicted many ground resupply routes between baghdad and damascus, and the relative paucity of iranian portvisits in syria suggests that irans sealanes to syria are more symbolic than practical. This article seeks to delve into the significance of assads visit to iran and explain the potential implications of his meeting with iran s supreme leader ali khamenei on the future of iran s syria strategy. The iranian land corridor to the mediterranean, david adesnik and behnam ben taleblu shed fresh light and understanding on iran s sustained campaign to pursue hegemonic influence in the middle east, export its revolutionary ideology, and threaten israel. Iran center for strategic and international studies.
Sep 27, 2018 the iranian military is stretched too thin to conduct kinetic operations simultaneously against major actors from the persian gulf to the bab elmandeb to syria. Recognize the geopolitical significance of syria s humanitarian tragedy. President trumps maximum pressure strategy against iran is working, despite warnings of a backlash against the u. In total, the iri has,000 to 15,000 of its proxy forces fighting in syria in addition to the ndf. In iraq, perhaps 30,000 or more of those 80,000 personnel can be considered direct iranian proxies consisting of kh, aah, and badr corps. Six components of a syria strategy carnegie endowment for. The evolution of deterrence iran has been a critical player in the syrian war since 2011, crafting a complex foreign policy. What the united states should learn from israels operations in syria, says a strategy like israels gives presidents more freedom of.
Iran s strategy in syria needs to be calibrated against those of its competitors and foes in the theater and coordinated with those of its allies. Breaking down iran and russias military strategy in syria. The islamic republic of iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep president bashar alassad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should assad fall. Iranian portvisits in syria suggests that irans sealanes to syria are more symbolic than practical. Occasional paper understanding irans role in the syrian conflict. Among the 500,000 syrians that have been killed, nearly 250,000 have been civilians, including over 27,000 children and 25,000 women. Iranian strategy in syria institute for the study of war. Reviewing the scope and nature of this intervention and analyzing death notices for irans military personnel and members of its foreign legion shiite militias from lebanon, iraq, afghanistan, pakistan, and syria provide revealing insights into the strategic logic guiding its decisionmaking.
Iran would not be able to maintain its current level of support to assad if this air route were interdicted through a nofly zone or rebel capture of syrian airfields. Concerning syrian government forces, soleimani, according to alotoum, was directly supervising an elite group of syrian officers to cultivate loyalty to iran. Also, in august 2018, iran and syria signed an agreement on military cooperation. First, by incorporating the militias into the national army, changing its sectarian composition in favor of the shia community. Isil strategy in syria in 2014 is unlikely to have led to a lower level of atrocities against civilians. Syria has been iran s strategic partner in deterring israel from attacking iran s proxies or its nuclear program. The displacement of 12 million syrians half externallyhas fueled the greatest refugee crisis since wwii. Iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep. Iranian unconventional warfare activities since 1982 have proved extensive. Iran s position is also linked to fears of the establishment of kurdish independence in northern syria. May 10, 2018 syria provides iran with vital strategic depth, allowing it to project power through the levant, and gives it a gateway to hezbollah, enhancing iranian deterrence of israel. Topics covered in this section include but are not limited to, completion of iran s missile, rocket, and nuclear programs. Iran s hedging strategy aims to ensure, however, that it can continue to pursue its vital interests if and when the regime collapses, using parts of syria as a base as long as the syrian opposition fails to establish full control over all of syrian territory.
While iran does not consider the kurds a terrorist group, it does not consider them an ally either, given their views on the future prospects of the assad regime. The islamic republic of iran and the syrian arab republic are close strategic allies, and iran has provided significant support for the syrian government in the syrian civil war, including logistical, technical and financial support, as well as training and some combat troops. Their successes in lebanon and iraq came in the face of some of the worlds most significant military, economic, and political powers. Home to some 82 million citizens who are overwhelmingly some 95% shia muslim, iran has been governed since 1979 by a radically antiwestern theocratic shia. Dec 04, 2017 israel must somehow block an iranian presence from emerging. Chairman, fdds center on military and political power senior fellow, hoover institution. Iran s actions throughout the region have been perceived, at times, as unnecessary meddling by the domestic populations of gaza, lebanon, yemen, and iraq, further attenuating iran s ability to influence events on the ground. It is the culmination of nine months of deliberation with congress and our allies. Iran has, to a large degree, been contained and does not exert nearly as much influence in the region and beyond as it would like.
The political alliance between syria and iran has sustained itself through a shared perception of threat, a convergence of interests in lebanon and iraq, and a. The remaining 50,000 mostly include those who follow muqtada al sadr. American enterprise institute for public policy research. Israel then must decide on a strategy for dealing with a strong iranian force in both syria and lebanon while also avoiding a costly ground war. How soleimanis assassination could affect irans syria. Support to allied regimes and groups and use of terrorism iran uses support for armed factions as an instrument of policy. Irans strategy in syria needs to be calibrated against those of its competitors and foes in the theater and coordinated with those of its allies. Iran s strategic perspectives, our temporal and geographic focus is more fixed.
Iran s growing influence in the evolving order in syria is driving israel to change its mindset and strategies. Syria is usually called iran s closest ally, with ideological conflict between the arab nationalism ideology of syria s secular ruling baath party and the islamic republic of iran s panislamist policy notwithstanding. It is readily apparent why the preservation of the regime of president bashar al assad of syria is pivotal to iran s regional strategy. Iranian casualties in syria and the strategic logic of. Irans hedging strategy aims to ensure, however, that it can continue to pursue its vital interests if and when the regime collapses, using parts of syria as a base as long as the syrian opposition fails to establish full control over all of syrian territory. Since the beginning of the conflict, irans primary objective was to defend assad. Temporally, our concentration is on events of the last few years and especially since the emergence of the. The 40year war with israel is not in iran s national interest, and has caused the iranians much more harm than it has to israel. As per its national military strategy, and restrained by its limited highend conventional capabilities, tehran is projecting force into syria by training, arming, and advising local and foreign shia militias which act as lightinfantry forces. Irans unwavering support to assads syria combating. The evolution of deterrence iran has been a critical player in the syrian war since 2011, crafting a complex foreign policy and military strategy to preserve. Syria is vital to iran s strategic interests in the middle east and has long been iran s closest state ally. Netanyahus strategy on iran, as far as it is israels strategy, hasnt failed. Syria is vital to irans strategic interests in the middle east and has long been irans closest state ally.
Israel sees iran rethinking its strategy in syria bennett says tehrans efforts to establish a permanent military presence to israels north are. Still, there is a way for the united states to push back against iran s gray zone strategy in syria. Iran increasingly came to view the situation in syria as a zerosum game, fearing that the ouster of the assad regime could pave the way for the emergence of a new regime and regional order intrinsically hostile towards tehran. Since 2018, iran has signed a series of economic agreements with the syrian government, signifying irans desire to assume an active role in syrias postwar reconstruction. The analysis below uses data collected from national and local iranian news outlets and social media to examine the irgcs deployment and activities in syria since the start of the russian air campaign and the proregime offensives in october 2015. Tehrans military intervention in syria is a unique event in the history of the islamic republic.
The option to enforce a nofly zone over all or part of syria has been raised at various times throughout the conflict, specifically in 2012, 20, and 2015. Irans operational strategy in syria nicholas hargreavesheald introduction since the islamic revolution of 1979, the islamic republic of iran has proven to be a resilient and highly motivated u. Occasional paper understanding irans role in the syrian. In response to israels harder line against the iranian military presence in syria, tehran has reportedly transferred ballistic missiles to its shiite proxies in iraq in recent months. Mar 20, 2018 any discussion of us strategy toward syria must first begin with the horrific statistics. Developments on the overlapping battlefields of the counterisis and antiassad campaigns in syria have. Iranian objectives will diverge in syria as time wears on. There has been an increase in the size and capabilities of militias supported by the islamic revolutionary guards corpsquds force in iraq, syria, lebanon, and yemen collectively. Counteracting irans gray zone strategy in syria lawfare. Iran s syria strategy progressively escalated in response to the possible defeat of its ally and the deterioration of its forward deterrence capacities against the united states and israel. Guard the organization that also runs much of iran s malign activities in countries like iraq and syria. The surprising endurance of the iran syria alliance is made more striking by the fact that it is based on neither shared national interests nor religious values, but is rather a tacticalcumstrategic partnership between two authoritarian regimes. In november 2017, it was soleimani who, in a letter to iranian supreme leader ayatollah ali khamenei, officially declared the end of is rule in iraq and syria. Or iranian opponents of the jcpoa and the government.
To counter iranian efforts and the inevitable similar actions of other countries, the united states should dedicate significant resources to crafting its own strategy to prevent tehran from taking advantage of the current conflict and humanitarian crisis. In contrast, israels campaign between the wars the hebrew acronym is mabam against iran and iranianbacked groups in syria has been one of the most successful military efforts to push back against iran in the gray zone. In this section we will look at iran s main objectives in syria and will sum up the strategies of the other main actors that iran has to react to. Iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep president bashar alassad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should assad fall. Today, the potential for direct interstate conflict is rising as proxy warfare declines and iran attempts to maintain the credibility of its forward. In places like the arab gulf states, this process has been less successful, and true iranian proxies do not yet exist. Geographically, we look at how iran s strategy plays out west and south of iran, primarily in the persian gulf including iraq and yemen and the levant. Issue brief the evolving iranian strategy in syria. As the head of irans martyrs foundation announced a few months ago, the death toll among iranian forces in the syrian civil war has passed. Especially the presence of shiite militias orchestrated by tehran was in the center of western, arab and of course israeli critique. In recent years irans activities in syria have been severely criticised. Artists in lebanon are pushing back against extremism through an increasingly popular rap movement that tackles radicalism and social challenges. Counteracting irans gray zone strategy in syria rand.
The iranian interests have called for the strong intervention beside the syrian ally to defend their strategic. Iran is extending its influence throughout syria as the islamic states influence declines. Syrian president bashar alassads regime would fall within weeks. When the uprising developed into the syrian civil war, there were increasing reports of iranian military support, and of iranian training of ndf national defence forces both in syria and iran. Since 2018, iran has signed a series of economic agreements with the syrian government, signifying iran s desire to assume an active role in syria s postwar reconstruction. But is the assad regime truly saving the syrian state. Iran is also trying to create a zone of influence in syrias east while strengthening its deterrence against israel and the united states. Jun 18, 2019 one iranian foreign policy watcher opined in the semiofficial tasnim news agency that u. Irans postsoleimani strategy in syria syria direct. Six components of a syria strategy carnegie endowment.
Download the brief the issue there is growing iranian activism in the middle east despite u. Iransyria relations improved after the iranian revolution in 1979. The perceived shift from chaos to an evolving order in syria presents a challenge to israels policy of limited intervention. Countering iran in the gray zone center for a new american. Throughout the current war in syria, iran has remained a steadfast supporter of the bashar alassad regime. Instruments of iran s national security strategy iran employs a number of different methods and mechanisms to implement its foreign policy. The logic was to have a backup plan if iran was attacked, a senior. Iran s strategy in syria aims to keep president bashar alassad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to ensure tehrans ability to use syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should assad fall. Moscows support for assad and its joint plan with washington to secure assads chemical weapons arsenal provide cover and a certain degree of legitimacy for iran s activities in syria. Iranian strategy in syria will fulton, joseph holliday, sam wyer may 20. As assad was losing ground from 2011 to october 20, iran became heavily involved in maintaining the current regime in power. This article argues that the logic of deterrence has been fundamental not just for shaping the contours of iransyria relations since the islamic revolution of 1979, but also for determining the overall trajectory of iranian strategy in the syrian war. The air line of communication between iran and syria is thus a key vulnerability for iranian strategy in syria. Civil war in syria, iran and iranian strategy in syrian.
But the current document shows how the trump administration has put shiite muslim iran at the center of u. Pdf iranian strategy in iraq and syria walter posch. While some iranian elites may share that goal, the prevailing israeli view on iran s syrian presence misreads actual iranian objectives and tehrans current prioritization of interests in syria. Sep 21, 2018 download the newsletter in search of an iran strategy. The displacement of 12 million syrians half externallyhas. Iran and syria have had a strategic alliance ever since the iran iraq war, when syria sided with nonarab iran against its fellow.
Iran sees syria as the iranian entra nce to the arab world, and syrias view is that iran is a paper of pressure in its negotiations with israel almuayawi, 20, p. A strategy for ending the syrian civil ar 2 syrias zones of control any attempt to deescalate the syrian war and reach a political settlement must begin with an acknowledgement of changing dynamics on the ground. But if iran is determined, israels efforts will not be enough. Any discussion of us strategy toward syria must first begin with the horrific statistics. Oct 19, 2017 he was hardly the first iranian casualty in syria. And how has iranian strategy evolved over the course of the war. Syrias strategic alliance with egypt ended around the same time due to egypts treaty with israel. Iranian involvement in the syrian civil war wikipedia. Syrias alliance with iran this is the fifth in a series of usipeace briefings on syria published by the institutes center for conflict analysis and prevention. Syria borders lebanon, where iran s closest regional ally, lebanese hezbollah is based. In syria, these successes culminated in a cunning albeit simple augmentation of their previous operational approach which allowed for a unified expeditionary force capable. Both the united states and iran need to formulate better strategies for engaging with one another. Sep 17, 2018 second, the strategy of opposing iranian military presence anywhere in syria resonates strongly with the sunni arab bloc in the region and can bring israel closer to tehrans other nemeses.
Since the start of the syrian civil war in 2011, and especially since early 2017, israel has conducted more. Preventing another war in syria crisis group middle east report n182, 8 february 2018 page ii them don its uniforms. Postrevolution iran represented an opportunity for syrian president hafez alassad to find a new counterweight to israel and iraq, syrias regional foes. Last year, however, israels policy shifted in response to a new iranian strategy in syria. Understanding irans role in the syrian conflict rusi. Iran is unlikely to undertake action in syria that would bring it into direct conflict with the united states. Iran and syria is thus a key vulnerability for iranian strategy in syria. Critical junctures in united states policy toward syria.1311 520 36 1103 1106 619 977 129 1347 1191 512 1317 496 939 544 359 510 40 160 1332 267 1188 1308 30 946 412 69 1104 1247 103 1279 875 697