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Have Iran and Hezbollah betrayed al-Assad? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This is what besieged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad believes. While it is true, despite the contradiction, to say that Iran supports al-Assad with money, oil, arms and even fighters, and at the same time claim that Iran, and its agents Hezbollah, have abandoned the al-Assad regime in the midst of its greatest crisis!

Despite the huge assistance that Tehran continues to provide to Damascus, there can be no doubt that al-Assad is not content or satisfied with the performance of his allies. He is feeling pressured by them, while he also expected them to provide him with more support. For over a year, al-Assad has threatened to ignite unthinkable regional collapse, making reference to red lines that must not be transgressed, however nothing of the sort has materialized, and the fire has remained contained to Syria.

Al-Assad had expected the Iranians to confront the Gulf States and pressure them to stop the Syrian revolutionaries. He also believed that Hezbollah would rush to fight Israel, inciting a war similar to the 2006 war that ignited the entire region. This would thereby force the US, France and Britain to stop supporting the Syrian revolution in order to put an end to the regional chaos.

However al-Assad today is very disappointed; the Iranians did not attack the Gulf, and Hezbollah did no more than stage demonstrations in order to entrap the border with Israel; demonstrators sang and danced, however no Hezbollah element fired a single bullet.

A single minor agent remained for al-Assad, Ahmed Jibril, head of the so-called Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine –General Command [PFLP-GC]. Al-Assad thought that perhaps he could open a front with Israel; however this failed and the Palestinian fighters – based in Syria – announced their support for the revolution.

During a television interview, Jibril spoke about al-Assad’s hopes, revealing that the Iranian leadership had informed the Syrian president that they would not leave Syria exposed to aggression. Jibril said that the Iranians had told al-Assad that they had warned the Turks on more than one occasion not to play with fire, and that any intervention represented a red line for Tehran.

Official Syrian state media was forced to promote and report rumors, some of which perhaps placed Syria’s allies and rivals on a collision course. For example, Syrian media quoted head of Iran’s Shura Council Ali Larijani as saying that “the fall of Bashar al-Assad in Syria is an introduction to the fall of Kuwait.” However there has been no confirmation that Larijani issued any such threat. Syria media also quoted similar statements by Russian officials, and this includes statements threatening the states that oppose the Bashar al-Assad regime with a war that will burn everything. However we have also failed to find any confirmation or corroboration of these statements. Following this, there was an alleged interview with Henry Kissinger, during which he reportedly stated that the collapse of the al-Assad regime would benefit Israel, which will occupy more Arab states. Of course, it turned out that this fabricated interview had initially appeared in a satirical publication, and Damascus had rushed to promote it!

What did al-Assad expect from his allies? How did they fail to live up to his expectations? He believed that the Iranians and Russians would cooperate and coordinate with one another to open a battlefront with Turkey to intimidate the Erdogan government and force Ankara to kick out the Syrian opposition organizations that represent the greatest threat to his rule. However the Russians and Iranians ultimately failed to do this.

Al-Assad was hoping for a war in the Gulf, centering around Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, exploiting sectarianism to threaten the political regimes there, however this also did not materialize.

He hoped to wake up one morning to find Jordan or Egypt requesting his support against Israeli aggression due to pre-planned actions, however months passed while the world remained engrossed with a single event, namely the collapse of the al-Assad regime, to the point that this is now inevitable. I previously wrote that Hassan Nasrallah was too smart to throw away his capabilities in order to rescue a regime whose collapse is guaranteed, and even if he had sent his men to fight alongside al-Assad and his pro-regime Shabiha militia, he ignored al-Assad’s desire to open battlefronts inside Lebanon or start a war with Israel. This is what he tried to alert everybody to when he commented on the kidnapping of Syrian and Turkish nationals in Lebanon, saying “understand this as you like; we have no authority over the kidnappers of Shiites. The Russians, the Iranians and Hezbollah are well aware that the al-Assad regime is collapsing, and they have known this for approximately a year. They are now only interested in mitigating the damage that his will have on themselves, as well as their interests, while also supporting a new reality in post-Assad Syria, such as cutting Syria off from alliances or inciting a civil war that will preoccupy the Syrians for the coming years.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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