Last Updated: Fri Sep 07, 2012 09:17 am (KSA) 06:17 am (GMT)

Have Iran and Hezbollah let Assad down?

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed

This is what besieged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad believes. It is paradoxical. How can we say Iran is supplying Assad with money, oil, weapons and fighters, and at the same time, claim Iran and its puppet Hezbollah have abandoned him in his hour of need?

Immense support from Tehran to Damascus has never stopped but Assad is far from satisfied with the performance of his allies. In fact, he must be quite angry with them. He’s been expecting more than just material support. For more than a year, he has threatened big events in the region. Nothing of the sort has happened and the fire remains confined to his own home.

Assad was expecting the Iranians to declare war against GCC countries and to exert pressure on them to stop supporting the Syrian freedom fighters. He believed Hezbollah would hasten war against Israel like in 2006, to keep the region busy and force the US, Britain and France to stop supporting the revolution which was spreading chaos across the country.

His disappointment was huge. The Iranians did not attack the GCC countries. Hezbollah did not declare war against Israel. All its members had done was organize demonstrations on the green meadows opposite the barbed wires borders with Israel. The demonstrators sang and danced. The bearded members of the party did not fire a single bullet against Israel.

Assad is left with Ahmed Jibril, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). He was hoping Jibril would open a front against Israel but he did not. The Palestinians inside the refugee camps in Syria joined the revolution and openly fought side-by-side with the freedom fighters.

Jibril expressed his well wishes to Assad. He said in an interview the leadership in Iran assured him they would not leave Syria alone against aggression. He claimed that Iranian leaders said they warned the Turks not to play with fire and made it clear that any intervention in Syria was a line that should not be crossed.

The official media in Syria were forced to circulate rumors to drive his allies to clash with his enemies. The media circulated a statement attributed to Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Shoura Council, in which he allegedly said, “The downfall of the Assad regime in Syria is the downfall of Kuwait. You may interpret this in any way you wish.” It was never proved the top Iranian official made the threat. The official media also attributed similar statements to Russian officials who warned against a war that would destroy everything and that Russia would not tolerate the attitudes of countries hostile to Syria. We could not find any truth to these statements. The official media circulated a statement they allegedly attributed to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in which he said the downfall of Assad would be beneficial to Israel, which would then occupy more Arab lands. The false interview was carried by a comic publication and was quickly marketed by Damascus.

What does Assad expect his allies to do? He thought the Iranians and the Russians would cooperate with each other to open a war front against Turkey to intimidate Erdogan’s government and compel it to kick out the Syrian opposition organizations from Turkish territories, which posed a big threat to him. The Iranians and the Russians did not do this.

He was hoping for a war in the Gulf that would cause Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to shake up their political systems under sectarian justifications, but this did not happen.

Assad was hoping to wake up one morning to find Jordan and Egypt asking for his help against an Israeli aggression because of the deliberate operations in Sinai, but this did not happen.

Many months have passed and the world is preoccupied with one event: The collapse of his regime, which is inevitable.

I once wrote that Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, was too smart to destroy his forces to salvage a falling regime. Though Nasrallah sent his men to fight alongside Assad forces and his militia, he has completely ignored Assad’s wishes to launch war in Lebanon or to start war against Israel. Nasrallah wanted the world to note this when he disowned the kidnapping of a number of Syrians and a Turk in Lebanon. “We have no power over the Shiite kidnappers. Understand this anyway you want,” he said.

The Russians, the Iranians and Hezbollah have known for about a year now that the Assad regime has fallen. They only want to mitigate the damage that might subsequently fall on them following the downfall of the regime. They want to have a say in the new Syria, maybe by dissecting the country into small sectarian states, or launch a civil war that would preoccupy Syrians for many years to come.

Published in the Saudi-based Arab News on Sept. 7, 2012

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