In August I wrote an article entitled “Post-Assad Iran” and I am returning now to write about post-Assad Iran once again. This is because the situation on the ground in Syria has begun to move incredibly quickly, and also because of the assurances I heard from three sources, Arab and European, about Iran planning for the post-Assad phase.
Before I begin we must consider Hassan Nasrallah’s latest statement, or warning, in which he said that the situation in Syria is becoming increasingly complex, but those who think that the armed opposition will be able to resolve the situation on the ground are “very, very mistaken”. Nasrallah’s words are important because they reflect the Iranian stance of course, and Nasrallah here is not talking about al-Assad being victorious, rather he is talking about the difficulty of the rebels succeeding, and there is a big difference. Up until recently, Hezbolah used to think that al-Assad would win, and some leaders of the party even warned against burning any playing cards with al-Assad in view of the fact that his hour of victory was imminent.
What I heard from my three sources, two of whom have previously met with al-Assad and know him well, is that the Iranian strategy – which utilizes Hezbollah in Syria – is based on three main objectives. The first is to desperately defend al-Assad with money, men and weapons, and for this reason, according to the sources, Qassem Soleimani is something of a semi-resident in Damascus. Yet this strategy has failed, and Tehran is now convinced of that. The second objective is to create a separate Alawite state, connected to Hezbollah via its borders. Much work has been done in this regard; Sunni cities and villages have been cleared for this purpose, but the plan has also failed. The third aspect of the Iranian strategy, and this is what is being worked on now, is that in the event of the fall of al-Assad, Iran and its allies will seek to ensure the failure of the subsequent political system, or state, in Syria, at any cost. This will be achieved through spreading chaos, violence, instability and whatever else it takes. This, of course, is where Hezbollah truly comes into play, not to mention the information I obtained from intelligence sources suggesting that al-Assad himself intends to carry out insane acts if he feels he is nearing his final moments in power.
Therefore, Nasrallah’s statement that “the situation in Syria is getting more complicated – but anyone who thinks the armed opposition can settle the situation on the ground is very, very mistaken” is very important and must be taken seriously. It means that Nasrallah and Iran are convinced of al-Assad’s end, and are now planning to set Syria alight. The Syrian President’s allies have said publicly that there will be no Syria after al-Assad, and Iran and Hezbollah are aware that any alternative to al-Assad, especially if it comes about via a military victory, will not be hospitable to them. Thus they are trying to destabilize Syria through Iraq and Lebanon, for Iran and Hezbollah realize that the fall of al-Assad would be a major strategic defeat for them.
Therefore, as I have written many times before, it is not enough to simply estimate the moment at which al-Assad may fall, we must accelerate this as much as possible and have a clear strategy for the whole post-Assad phase, not merely the days in the aftermath. This is in order to thwart Iran and Hezbollah’s attempts, and to protect Syria as a whole.