There is caution in our region and anticipation of the near future, whether with regards to Iran, Iraq after US withdrawal, the inter-Palestinian conflict and the peace process, or the escalating political crisis between Baghdad and Damascus.
One opinion that I heard deserves serious consideration, even if it is not yet complete in some aspects, and it is the opinion that Iran has begun to reorganize its priorities. Iran’s main priority now is to control Iraq as a whole; this is what financial indicators suggest, as Hezbollah is not in the best financial situation right now and it was the one spending on Sunni and Christian areas in Lebanon. Moreover, financial support for Hamas has decreased. It is true that Iran is experiencing an internal crisis; however, it is clear that Iran is spending substantial amounts on Iraq at a rapid pace, especially with the US withdrawal.
Tehran is not worried about Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s strength. This explains Hezbollah’s calm and its openness towards its opponents, as Hezbollah has become calmer than the Syrians themselves. In addition, Iran is not relying on Damascus as much as it relies on Hezbollah. Therefore, losing Damascus in exchange for gaining control over Iraq as a whole or transforming it into an Iranian colony as some Iraqis say, is more beneficial and logical to the Iranians.
Here we must pay attention to two important issues: the first is Syria’s initial reaction to the escalation of Nuri al Maliki’s government. A Syrian official source at the time expressed regret that relations between the two countries had become hostage to internal clashes and perhaps a foreign agenda. This reference to a foreign agenda forces us to remember that Syrian-US dialogue is taking place, so who is this foreign party that is setting Baghdad against Damascus? The other issue is that escalation against Damascus has made Syria a pro-Arab state in the eyes of the Iraqis who now see Bashar al Assad as a protector of Iraqi Sunnis! From here it is clear, politically, that Damascus and Baghdad cannot be brought together in Iran’s perspective, or even in the Syrian regime’s perspective, as this would have major consequences on Syrian security.
Going back to Iran, having control over Iraq means that it will be able to penetrate the Arab Gulf and deter it [from carrying out certain actions]. Iran will also have a military front facing Syria and Israel through Hezbollah, let alone Tehran’s influence in Afghanistan. With that, Iran will be closer to realizing its goals of expansion in the region and negotiations with America. Consequently, it will not care about any Syrian shift regardless of whether Damascus allies with Saudi, Egypt or America.
Moreover, this interpretation, as well as some indicators, suggests that Iran has begun to play a game of dealing one strike in two areas that affect the Syrians. There is Iranian activity going on with regards to the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine because if Hamas moved quickly towards the peace process, or decided to respond [positively] to the Syrians, whether with regards to Palestinian reconciliation or otherwise, then Tehran could have weakened Hamas in Gaza by allying with Islamic Jihad. Here we must refer to the rumors about the recent divisions within the Hamas ranks, especially amongst those who took up arms against the Jund Ansar Allah movement in Rafah in protest against Hamas.
I believe that it is an interpretation that deserves attention.