Iran will be culled by its weakest link

Any nation, state, organisation or business is only as strong as its weakest link. Iran’s weakest link is Syria and all related to it. Once upon a time its predecessor was the Persian Empire whose demise is akin to the current Iranian policy and actions. Iran has failed to learn and to adhere to the lessons of Imperial overstretch.

This is not the only failure of the Tehran regime. It has aimed to tackle Jerusalem but has also failed to understand the strength of Israel’s survival instinct. In both cases Iran has failed to comprehend that becoming embroiled in a remote conflict for ideological or religious reasons not directly connected to your own immediate security needs will result in the same fate for Iran as history has proven for others. Iran has failed to comprehend that threatening the vital and immediate security needs of states will result in immediate and decisive action that it can neither manage nor survive.

In the instance of Iranian involvement in Syria there is the feeling that it is a situation that brings to mind events as insane as the British Empire of Old. Weapons and fighters are constantly being dispatched and inserted by Iran into a conflict that cannot be won solely by military means. Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, the Hezbollah movement, are sending weapons and men in a futile effort to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The more they send only results in an intensification of efforts by Syrian opposition factions to smuggle more weapons in Syria and train more fighters all funded by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish streams to the Syrian rebels. Iran has failed to realize that is due to active Russian involved that Assad remains in power and not because of Iranian efforts.

Turning to the case of attempting to tackle Jerusalem sees that Iranian involvement in Syria is not just to prop up the al-Assad’s regime. It is also an integral element of the efforts by Iran to transfer via the Syrian regime to Hezbollah various missile and anti-aircraft batteries pertaining to anti-Israel endeavors. It is here that Iran will face a much larger culling than its impending failure to prop up the al-Assad’s regime. Israeli intelligence and pinpoint air strikes have made all Iranian efforts as pointless as Iran’s support for Assad. The embattled Assad is aware of this and holds onto a modicum of a chemical arsenal as an insurance policy for when he will be forced to withdraw into a mini-Alawite state on Syria’s western coast and maybe even less than that.

If Iran accepted that Syria is its weakest link and isolates it from the broad rhetoric then it could potentially cut it out like a cancerous growth when the Assad regime collapses and could continue to remain the bastion of Shia Islam. However there are all indications that Iran will not chose to do so. Moreover it is complicating matters by linking Syria, Israel and its nuclear project.

Projecting forces into Syria may have been more than just supporting Assad and more than aiming to counter Sunni Islam while furthering Shia Islam. There are all indications that it was intended to distract focus away from international focus in the Iranian nuclear project by shifting the focus of the battleground elsewhere but this has not succeeded. Until Iranian involvement in Syria after the Arab Spring of 2011 the Syrian Army hadn’t fired a single shot against Israel since 1973. The border was extremely quiet and Israel had even entered into discussions about a peace treaty with Syria that might have included resolving disputed control of territory since the 1967 war.

However due to the deteriorating situation in Syria caused by Iran to a degree Israel is now actively targeting Syrian Army forces in response to mortars that land in the Israeli Golan Heights from the exchange of fire within the Syrian conflict. Further Israel has attacked targets around Damascus because of the attempted missile transfers to Hezbollah. Rather than distracting focus the Syrian situation has intensified attention towards and against Iran, its nuclear program, its proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah and its involvement in other countries domestic affairs.

Any nation, state, organisation or business is only as strong as its weakest link. Iran’s weakest link is proving to be Syria and all related to it. It is clear that Syria’s inevitable collapse and split as a sovereign state will certain damage the Iranian Shiite axis of evil and even the very existence of Iran as we know it.


About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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