Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The battle to defend al-Assad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It is clear that the battle to defend the Bashar al-Assad regime has begun in our region, led by Iran, however what is interesting is that Tehran – until now – has played all of its cards, except for Hezbollah. We witnessed the Eliat attack, and the movement along the Gaza front, despite Hamas denying its involvement. In addition to this, we can add the statements made by [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr, and the escalation carried out by the Shiite opposition in Bahrain; this is precisely what those affiliated to the al-Assad regime threatened following Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s address on Syria. However the attempts to ignite the Sinai represent a new development and a grave danger. This is not to mention the intensification of Kurdish attacks against Turkey, which may explain Ankara’s reluctance to take a firm stance against al-Assad until now.

Iran utilizing all of its cards to defend al-Assad – all the while Hezbollah remains noticeably calm – means that Iran is not confident with regards to the resilience of the al-Assad regime, not for external reasons, but rather because of the pressure of the Syrian people. Therefore Iran is today doing the impossible in order to alleviate the pressure on the al-Assad regime, but without risking one of its most important tools in the region, namely Hezbollah. For Iran knows that Israel will not pass up the chance to destroy Hezbollah if it takes action today along the Lebanese front, despite the Israeli eagerness to see the survival of the al-Assad regime, which represents its best line of defense along its Syrian border.

Iran – and also Israel – are both aware that it would be fatal if Hezbollah took action today, for the Lebanese group has lost a lot of popular support, whether in Lebanon or the region, after the game has been exposed. The story is no longer that of there being a moderate camp and a resistance camp, for the sectarian dimensions of the situation have been made clear; for it is Iran and the Shiite ruling elite who are standing with al-Assad today, in addition to those who fall within Iran’s sphere of influence in Iraq, as well as Hezbollah and the Bahraini Shiite opposition. As for those in Gaza – whoever they might be – they are nothing more than cards in the “Abu Adas Axis” [in reference to the Lebanese citizen who appeared in a video allegedly claiming responsibility for the assassination of Rafik Hariri]. Therefore Hezbollah entering the game at this stage would only hasten its destruction. As for the opening of an Egyptian front, this represents a gain for Iran on multiple levels, for it harms Egyptian stability, and also represents an opportunity to establish Iranian political influence on Egyptian soil, under the pretext of fighting Israel. Therefore Tehran has been compensated for Hezbollah’s loss of reputation and popularity in the Arab world, for Israeli aggression against Egypt – should this occur – will affect the Arabs far more than it will Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Therefore, we are facing a complex operation that aims to alleviate the pressure on Bashar al-Assad, and defend him, in light of a clear Turkish failure to pay back Iran twofold. Tehran today is throwing rocks at the region whilst living in the proverbial glasshouse, particularly in terms of the Arabs in the Iranian city of Ahwaz, and elsewhere. What is most important today is for Egypt not to be dragged into this battle which only serves sectarian interests. As for the Arabs, it is their mission, particularly the capable amongst them, to confront Iran on the ground, and not just in speeches, for Tehran is aware that it is facing a decisive moment in terms of its foreign policy, namely the collapse of the Bashar al-Assad regime. This is something that would make it easier than at any time before for the Arabs to clip Iran’s wings in terms of its regional ambitions.