The Syria-Iran Axis: A Critical Alliance; Not A Marriage Of Convenience

Jerusalem Cloakroom #222, March 13, 2009

1.  Irrespective of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel's existence, the ties with Iran constitutes – for the ruthless Assad regime – an indispensable financial, diplomatic and military means of survival.  The Syria-Iran axis bolsters Assad's policies on the most critical fronts: Domestic, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and the USA.  Assad's fundamental interests conflict with fundamental US values and interests.


2.  Syria's hostility toward the US dates back to the Cold War, when it sided with the USSR. The Syria-USSR axis originated in 1955, when the Golan Heights were occupied by Syria and when the US refrained from supplying Israel with advanced military systems. The root cause of the Syria-USSR axis was Syrian regional concerns: Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon.


3.  The decline of Moscow has raised the profile of Iran as Syria's key strategic ally. Syria and Iran consider each other an extension of their strategic depth in face of mutual historical rivals and threats: Iraq, Turkey and the US.  The US threat is military and political – introducing democracy, which is a lethal threat to the rogue regimes in Damascus and Teheran. Hence, for instance, the Iran-Syria involvement in anti-US Iraqi and Afghani terrorism, aimed at uprooting US military presence from Iraq, Afghanistan and from the Gulf. Damascus fears a stable pro-US Iraq and prefers a chaotic Iraq.


4.  Syria & Iran coordinate efforts (probably with Russia) to leverage the expected US evacuation of Iraq, in order to realize Iranian domination of the Gulf and its natural resources and to advance Syrian inter-Arab aspirations. Syrian involvement in anti-US terrorism, and narco-terrorism, precedes its role in the murder of 300 US Marines during the 1983 bombing of US embassy and Marines HQ in Beirut.


5.  Iran & North Korea have assisted Syrian nuclear, biological and chemical military efforts. It has funded Syria military procurement from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, China and North Korea and has supplied Damascus with Iran-made missiles, tanks, armored personnel carriers and sophisticated intelligence and surveillance systems. Iran & North Korea have collaborated in the development of ballistic capabilities.  They established, in Syria, plants, which manufacture medium-range missiles and missile launchers. They have sent thousands of military and technological advisors to enhance Syrian military performance.


6.  Iran has supported – directly and via Hizballah - Syrian foothold in Lebanon, which is considered a prime Syrian national security goal.  


7.  Independent of the Golan Heights, the Assad regime considers the axis with Iran a long-term, strategic interest and not a tenuous-tactical marriage of convenience.  For Assad to pry away from Iran, in return for the Golan Heights and US engagement, would require to de-Assadize himself. The Syrian leopard cannot change its stripes; it does, however, change its tactics.


8.  An Israeli giveaway of the Golan Heights would undermine US interests in the Mideast.  It would enable Syria to redeploy a few armored mechanized divisions, from the Golan front, to the Jordanian frontier, in an attempt to destabilize and topple the Hashemite regime in Jordan, which Damascus considers a Syrian province.  Such a development could have ripple effects into Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. A Golan giveaway would, also, enable Assad to redeploy a few divisions to the Turkish frontier, agitating anti-Turkish Kurdish terrorism, in his attempt to reclaim Hatay, which used to be Syrian territory, and constitutes a platform for US surveillance and intelligence installations. It would dramatically enhance the strategic maneuverability of pro-Iran, pro-Russia, pro-China and pro-North Korea Syria, which hosts a multitude of international terrorist organizations, which practices hate-education and which has systematically violated agreements concluded with Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.