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Opinion: Iran's emergency plan for post-Assad era in Lebanon - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Syrian regime is acting as if it will survive forever and is seeking to cement ties with its allies for numerous objectives—none of which are positive.

Iran and Hezbollah, despite all the evidence that proves they both adhere to the one objective of velayat-e faqih [governance by a supreme jurist], are acting on the basis that the Syrian regime will fall, no matter how long it will take or how much is sacrificed. There have recently been talks about Russian arms deals with Syria—but most importantly, S-300 surface-to-air missiles have yet to arrive. However, according to the New York Times and other international newspapers, SA-17 surface-to-air missiles and sophisticated Yakhont anti-ship missiles have already arrived. The missiles are about 22 feet long each, have a range of about 180 miles and carry high-explosive warheads.

In the interview he gave to the Argentinean Clarín newspaper, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad said he will provide Hezbollah with sophisticated arms. Later on, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah revealed that his troops are fighting publicly in Qusayr, thus disapproving the theory that the army, the people, and the resistance are in Lebanon. Nasrallah also said that secret plans are currently underway to transport Yakhnont missiles to Hezbollah and Iran as soon as possible, in view of the Syrian Army’s loss of many of its military bases and weapons systems.

The Syrian regime’s decision to transfer these missiles to its Iranian ally was made in view of the fact that Iran is posing a real threat to Western presence in the Gulf, as well as to the trade activities in the Mediterranean. In such circumstances, and in view of the continual fighting within Syria, Western and Arab states and Israel are anticipating the arrival of sophisticated Russian weaponry to Syria, as well as efforts to transport them to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In the meantime, both Iran and Hezbollah are preparing to engage in the struggle over Lebanon following Assad’s ouster. The parties have endeavored to strip Hezbollah of its Lebanese identity, exposing the fact that Hezbollah is carrying out the orders of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (It has recently been noticed that Lebanese flags have disappeared at Hezbollah events, and that the platforms on which Hezbollah’s leaders stand, either to lament their victims or justify their party’s interference in Qusayr, present two huge portraits of both the original supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Khamenei.) There is, in fact, an implicit Iranian acknowledgment that the Syrian regime will fall. Thus, senior state officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran are well aware that Iran’s next main foothold will be Lebanon.

In view of such an assessment, senior officials in Iran and in Hezbollah have drawn up a plan for what comes after Assad’s fall. The plan’s key points incorporate transporting their joint headquarters from Syria to Iran, preparing an air bridge to transport arms from Tehran to Beirut, and targeting anyone who is not a political ally in order to intimidate and silence them.

In early March 2013, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Qassim Solimani, and the secretary-general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, agreed to embark on the first stage of the strategic Emergency Plan that was prepared last year with the aim of maintaining Tehran’s political and military influence in Lebanon. Information was leaked regarding preparations currently underway to move the headquarters of the general leadership to Tehran to serve as a place for Iranian experts in the political and strategic military domain. Iran’s participation will incorporate representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs and intelligence, apart from the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) troops under the leadership of the commander of the Lebanon Brigade, Hassan Mahdawi. The Lebanese participation includes representatives of Hezbollah, who will be in direct contact with the secretary-general’s senior security consultant.

The main objective of the Emergency Plan drawn up by the Iranian Supreme Council for National Security, assisted by elements from Hezbollah who participated in strategic planning, is to undermine the Lebanese opposition, which will attempt to benefit from Assad’s possible fall to destabilize the internal strategic front in Lebanon (supported by Hezbollah) aiming at undermining its internal influence.

From an Iranian viewpoint, given its detachment from Syria and Lebanon, Iran can become a decisive state through which the country can become capable of dominating the Arab region.

As for Hezbollah, it is concerned about the eruption of possible popular uprisings against it on the day Assad is overthrown, similar to the protests of March 14, 2005.

With regards to the military part of the plan, the first practical step will be building an intensive air bridge to transport arms and riot control equipment. According to directives, the IRGC must be prepared to rapidly prepare jets and equipment and send them directly to Beirut International Airport.

Lebanese reports indicate that Hezbollah’s trend of containing its sympathizers from within the Lebanese army continues unabated. In this endeavor, Hezbollah is assisted by some senior officials and the fact that the Lebanese army refrains from confrontations with Hezbollah’s leaders. The reports added that Hezbollah is working towards strengthening its own intelligence unit so as to abort any possible plan by the Lebanese opposition, which includes training private combat groups to quell riots.

The Emergency Plan’s second operational stage, which both Hezbollah and Iran can jointly undertake, is focused primarily on sharply dividing the Lebanese political arena. What Hezbollah and Iran aspire to achieve, following the cancellation of elections and extending the term of the current parliament, is the “one-third quorum” in the parliament with regards to all the Lebanese government’s decisions. Among the plan’s objectives for the Lebanese opposition is branding them as traitors and intimidating them by all means possible to eventually reach a state of terror and complete silence. Furthermore, Hezbollah has its own plan to control the government, communication and infrastructure facilities in Lebanon. The plan aims at strengthening security in areas with Hezbollah presence in southern Beirut, as well as on all highways that link the south with the capital. Whenever necessary, the entire capital city can even be dominated militarily.

The secret Emergency Plan was drawn up on the basis that the Iranian Security Office is aware that all civil activities Tehran has undertaken towards Lebanon in the past two years have failed to accomplish the desired results. During this period, Iran—whether unilaterally or jointly with Hezbollah—worked towards expanding political, economic and militarily cooperation with Lebanon.

With regards to the military, on several occasions Iran expressed its wish to expand security cooperation with Lebanon and to assist with arming the army. This bait was refused by Lebanon, and so Iran did not succeed in strengthening its influence over the resentful majority there; on the contrary, the Iranian manner of conduct and all its proposals were sharply and overtly criticized in Lebanon. This is despite the courtesy Lebanese senior state officials have shown when receiving Iranian guests.

Perhaps when these emergency plans were prepared, there was only little hope that they would ever be applied. Even during the July 2006 war, and despite the subsequent destruction, the Lebanese people accepted Hezbollah’s discourse regarding the causes of the war. Yet the involvement in Syria has intimidated the majority of the Lebanese people and has made them wonder who will bear the consequences of this involvement. Hezbollah’s reasons for this came successively: from defending “holy sites” and Sayeda Zainab district, to defending Shi’ite villages inside the Syrian border that are inhabited by Lebanese, to defending Assad regime against the so-called takfirist attack.

But who said that all everyone in Qusayr is a takfiri? The final cause for interference was defending Lebanon to avoid its elimination. (MP Nawwaf Al-Mousawi said last Sunday that the war is an American–Israeli attempt, along with the participation of European and Arab regimes, that aims to overthrow the Syrian state, making it a toy in the hands of the Americans and the Israelis.)

Finally, Sheikh Naim Qassem said the decision to participate in the war is a strategic one. Contrarily, it was odd of Mosawi to say the “objective of the struggle now is to tear apart Islamic unity and promote Islamic factions to fight one another.”

The question to be raised here is: Hezbollah got caught in such an awful trap, but what will the result be?