Post-Assad Syria May Not Cut Ties with Iran

4798 The West believes that Assad's fall will serve Israel by cutting Syria off from Iran and Hezbollah. But regardless of the outcome, those ties could remain.

Whether Syrian President Bashar Assad falls or remains in power, Iran ties to Hezbollah could stay strong. Photo by AP
The combat map of the opposition troops in Syria resembles a lace curtain that is falling apart. From the reports of the many militias or the regime's army, one cannot assemble any picture of the situation that clarifies who is in control and where. Each side has its own story and both sides cite statistics to prove they have achieved their goals: The opposition claims it is in control of two-thirds of the country, while the regime claims that it has the entire country in its control except for "one-third of a town here and a quarter of a town there."

For example, the opposition reported last week that the town of Al-Shdida in the Al Hasaka governorate in northeastern Syria was under the control of the Islamist group Al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al-Qaida. Three days later, it was reported that tens of thousands of Syrian citizens had fled the town because of the terrible fighting taking place there. Quarters in the city of Homs that had been under the control of the Free Syrian Army were "liberated" by regime forces, while in Dera'a, which is supposedly under the control of Free Syrian army battalions, the Syrian army continues to arrest people and conduct street battles.

It looks like a military victory is not on the horizon. Iran and Russia have already removed archives of sensitive documents out of Damascus and Tartus, which is where the Russian naval base is located, suggesting there is real fear that Bashar al-Assad's regime may fall. Both countries, along with the opposition leadership, have already admitted there's no alternative to a diplomatic solution.

A meeting is scheduled to take place in Moscow at the end of the month between opposition leader Maaz el-Khatib and regime representatives to discuss next steps. At the moment, though, such dialogue seems far from reality. The regime's statement that it was willing to talk with the opposition without prior conditions didn't negate the opposition's prior condition: that Assad be removed from power before any talks can begin.

Publicly, neither side has blinked yet. Each seems to believe that time is on its side, or at least that it needs more of it to strengthen positions and gain an advantage on the ground. The huge number of people killed in the conflict - between 65,000 and 90,000 - has created no sense of urgency.

While the political opposition and the militias operating on the ground are pondering Syria's future, Iran and Hezbollah are already sketching the new map of power.

According to a report from journalist Hoda al-Husseini in Asharq Al Awsat, an international Arabic newspaper published in London, Hezbollah has proposed a deal to Syrian Alawite officers that includes protection and sheltering in Lebanon once Assad falls. The deal includes housing and a salary in exchange for aid and advice in warfare, intelligence deployment and the operation of sophisticated weapons in Lebanon.

Source: | Zvi Bar'el  
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