Iranian Reinforcements Arrive in Syria
by Ryan Mauro
Reinforcements from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have just arrived in Syria, raising the number of Iranian and Hezbollah operatives helping the Assad regime to the “high hundreds.” The majority of foreign assistants are training Assad’s thugs and helping them gather intelligence, which presumably means operating the electronic communications monitoring equipment that the Iranian regime uses. Some are even involved in the physical attacks on the Syrian opposition.
The report says that Iran’s financing is being used to stabilize Damascus and Aleppo, two of the regime’s power centers that have yet to erupt into full-blown protests. In recent weeks, the opposition took over some suburbs of Damascus and demonstrations spread to Aleppo. The regime launched a military offensive that took back the suburbs from the rebel forces.
Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, is also helping Assad. One of his government’s ships delivered fuel to Syria recently for the second time.
While Assad is getting plenty of foreign help, his opposition is still begging for its own outside aid. The Syrian National Council, the umbrella opposition body, is asking Russia to pressure Assad into allowing three humanitarian corridors to open so that international aid can flow into the country. I would recommend that the SNC doesn’t hold its breath while waiting for this request to be granted.
The opposition wants three routes to be opened up: A route to Homs through Lebanon, a route to Idlib through Turkey and a route to Deraa through Jordan.
The Lebanese route isn’t going to happen because Hezbollah controls the country. Turkey houses the headquarters of the Free Syria Army, making the Turkish route very plausible. I’ve argued that the U.S. should open up a direct line of support to the rebels through Jordan, just as the opposition is now suggesting. Unlike Turkey, Jordan is not governed by Islamists. This route is the best option for the interests of the U.S. and secular democratic Syrians that want to replace Assad but don’t want an Islamist takeover.
One other concern that must be mentioned: Syria’s Weapons of mass destruction (WMD). There are signs that the regime is considering the use of chemical weapons to crush the uprising. A Central Command study concluded that there are about 50 chemical weapons sites in Syria, and it would require over 75,000 soldiers to secure them.
If the civil war in Syria spreads, and there is every indication that it is, the odds are not high that all of these sites will be protected from looters, especially when there are terrorists and criminals willing to pay a high price for the chemical weapons. The situation becomes much worse when you think about all of the available conventional weapons. The regime may also very well calculate that a staged “terrorist attack” using “looted” WMD would make the international community reconsider its support for the rebels.
The unfortunate reality is that the West and opponents of radical Islam are caught between a rock and a hard place in Syria.
Editor's Note: At press time, reports that the U.S. is planning an aerial blockade of Syria and a buffrer zone on the Turlisk border are starting to be reported.