The state of Iran has a deep involvement in Syria entailing expensive and well coordinated efforts to help extend president Bashar al-Saad’s grip on power. In addition, the state is simultaneously preparing favorable grounds in Syria to retain its ability to harness the resources and spaces available there and realize its regional goals should Assad leave office.
Iran is using its security forces and intelligence services to give strategic advice to the Syrian military, which in turn helps Bashar al-Saad stay in power. The evolution of these Iranian efforts has now taken the form of an expeditionary training force spearheaded by several units of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The involvement of the IRGC’s Ground Forces in a conflict beyond Iranian’s borders denotes the country’s intention and capacity to assert its military power at the international level.
Iran has also been sending aircraft to deliver stockpiles of weapons to Syria. This has been very important considering that significant gains made by rebels have closed important ground supply channels between Syria and Iraq. The military supplies have played a major role in any significant strides that the Syrian army has made against the enemy.
Additionally, Iran is actively helping shabiha forces who are on the same front as the Syrian army. The country may need this partly to offset any possible fall of the Syrian regime or reduction of its territory to only Damascus and Alawite at the coast. The militias will find Tehran very useful in such an event, and their engagement will allow Iran to continue operating inside Syria and asserting its military influence from there.
Iranian involvement in Syria seems to mirror the activities and interests of several other armed groups. A case in point is Lebanese Hezbollah, which swung into direct action in the Syria war immediately after the government started losing control over parts of its territory in 2012. This organization has helped sustain Asaad through its well-drilled military wing, whose activities in Syria mirror the strategic objectives of Tehran.
Certainly, Iran’s activities within Syria are significantly limited due to factors beyond its power. Likewise, Iran will most likely suffer a substantial restriction of its capability to assert its military power over Syria once the current regime falls and the war ends. Nevertheless, Tehran is continuously implementing counter-measures to ascertain that any eventual defeat of the Syrian government does not interfere Iran’s strategic regional objectives. This strategy borders on the use of certain Syrian territories under the control of pro-regime or pro-Tehran groups after the fall of Assad, assuming that rebels will fail to set up full control over the entire country.