Top 4 Reasons Iran will stand by Syrian gov’t despite High Casualties

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Saturday, Iran announced that 13 members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps had been killed and 21 wounded when the al-Qaeda-led Army of Islam fundamentalist Sunni coalition took the village of Khan Touman near Aleppo.

Iran will nevertheless continue to back the regime of Bashar al-Assad against rebels. An envoy of Iran’s clerical leader, Ali Khamenei, was in Damascus on Saturday. Ali Akbar Velayati said he wanted actually to strengthen Iranian ties with Syria.

Here’s why Iran will fight on till the bitter end, undeterred by the highest one-day casualty count in the war so far:

1. Syria is needed as a bridge between Iran & Lebanon, over which Iran resupplies Lebanon’s Hizbullah with weaponry and support. Without that ally, Iran would have no foot in the door in the Levant and so lose some of its strategic advantage.

2. If Syria fell into the hands of the hyper-Sunni Salafi Jihadists, Iran would go from dominant regional power to being besieged by militant Sunnis.

3. Syria is a source of religious prestige for Iran, given its shrines to Shiite holy figures. Leaving them for Daesh (ISIL ISISL) to destroy would harm the regime’s popularity at home.

4. Syria is a chess piece in the Iranian-Saudi rivalry and Iran would lose the entire contest if it withdrew from that country.

Therefore, the Iranian regime will double down on Syria. It can’t afford to lose.


Wochit News: “Iran suffers worst loss against militants in Syria, Aleppo truce extended”

12 Responses

  1. Are you stating or implying that Iran and Saudi Arabia consider their rivalry with each other as a more important goal than just about anything else — such as the welfare and future economic satisfaction of their own populations, the prospects for the region as a whole, or the developing/possible problem of human civilization literally suffocating in our own waste products?

    That would be a terrible thing if it were true, and holds the potential to ensure that the most negative projections for us all come true.

  2. And how do these casualties compare to, say, casualties during the Iran-Iraq war?* Admittedly, defending home territory isn’t the same as fighting far from home, but it’s still a yardstick.

    *”by the end of 1983, an estimated 120,000 Iranians…had been killed”, link to

  3. Those seem like incredibly high stakes. It’s hard to believe that neo-cons in a US administration, if they are aware of them, aren’t equally prepared to double down on the rebels.

    • But then, the arrival of Russia changed everything. This is the first great test of the new power bloc forming around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Iran was not an SCO member because the membership didn’t want to uselessly provoke the US while it officially imposed sanction on it. But the path for Iranian membership opened up at the very same time that both Iran and Russia needed to rescue their client in Syria. If we assume SCO members in general want to keep the US bogged down in quagmires to prevent it from molesting them, some or all might all send aid to Assad.

  4. More importantly if Iran loses in Syria and Lebanon, it wii have no leverage against Israel and United States. KSA is acting as a surrogate for both.

  5. Billy, mercenary armies have not fared well across the pages of history. Syria’s Arab Army and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are not mercenaries but people fighting what they believe is a just war.

    Odds are, whatever the neocons do, they will lose and are just building up long term enemies against themselves and America. Short sighted, stupid, selfish. In short, neocon.

    • Actually the goal of the neocons such as the Project For a New American Century, was to destabilze the middle east. Originally, as presented on this video, Israel was to be the military force to take down dictators throwing their rivals into wars carried out by rial factions, then they realized the US would do the fighting for them. It seems to be working beautifully as Israel quietly plunders the and steals the remaining land in Gaza and the West Bank. Take fifteen minutes to watch the video. link to

  6. So if Clinton is elected the US will cultivate more death and destruction in Syria by supporting rebels?

    Clinton sure sounds and acts like the most serious war hawk in the running.
    link to
    “Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted. Right now, it is the combination of Iran’s strategic alliance with Syria and the steady progress in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli leaders to contemplate a surprise attack — if necessary over the objections of Washington. With Assad gone, and Iran no longer able to threaten Israel through its, proxies, it is possible that the United States and Israel can agree on red lines for when Iran’s program has crossed an unacceptable threshold. In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria. The rebellion in Syria has now lasted more than a year. The opposition is not going away, nor is the regime going to accept a diplomatic solution from the outside. With his life and his family at risk, only the threat or use of force will change the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s mind. UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05794498 Date: 11/30/2015 The Obama administration has been understandably wary of engaging in an air operation in Syria like the one conducted in Libya for three main reasons. Unlike the Libyan opposition forces, the Syrian rebels are not unified and do not hold territory. The Arab League has not called for outside military intervention as it did in Libya. And the Russians are opposed. Libya was an easier case. But other than the laudable purpose of saving Libyan civilians from likely attacks by Qaddafi’s regime, the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region. Syria is harder. But success in Syria would be a transformative event for the Middle East. Not only would another ruthless dictator succumb to mass opposition on the streets, but the region would be changed for the better as Iran would no longer have a foothold in the Middle East from which to threaten Israel and undermine stability in the region.”

    • That’s an unfair besmirching of Hillary. She supported the Libya mission but as you might recall, the US played a supporting, not a leading role. What’s more, there was a humanitarian crisis. If left alone, Qadaffi would have murdered untold thousands. I don’t see anything in her resume which would indict her as a thoughtless warmonger, the way you do.

  7. If Iran loses Syrian Lebanon it will lose its leverage against Israel and United States. This is the main reason Iran cannot afford to lose.

  8. The second point is actually the more important reason why Iran has backed the Syrian government. Iran likely could care less about a supposed ‘rivalry’ with Saudi Arabia. Iranian diplomatic corps in interviews say that they back the Syrian government to deter extremists groups taking over Syria and also out of some loyalty for Syrian support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. American troops have also lost there lives fighting against Daesh. The Iranians understand the harm stemming from Saudi support of extremists groups in Syria and Iraq.

    It’s hard to understate the harm that has come from Daesh and related groups in Syria. The past two years have made it abundantly clear that Iran has a reason to worry about these groups that are operating in Syria and Iraq.

    Iran and Russia have always demonstrated that they were willing to compromise during negotiations to draw the Syrian strife to a close. The real intransigence comes from Saudi Arabia, which has stymied every attempt to negotiate a solution to the ongoing strife in Syria. The Saudis continue to flood extremists groups in Syria with munitions in contravention of international law.

    In twenty years, will anyone really think there was much of a ‘rivalry’ between Iran and Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia might be good at throwing money at politicians to buy influence (to deter what they perceive as Iranian influence in the middle east), but in terms of actual development Saudi Arabia has not accomplished much. They don’t have a constitution or any real form of law. Iran can be criticized on many grounds: most importantly human rights. However, Iran does not promulgate sectarianism or extremism in Syria, unlike Saudi Arabia.

  9. 5- If Syria Falls, Iraq will be a piece of cake for the Jihadis, then Iran will have an army of Fanatics on it’s doorstep.

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