It is time to rethink strategy in Syria
The report about the death of Iranian Brig. Gen Mohammad Ali Mohammad Husseini, commander of the commando battalion in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Special Force, in Syria provides yet another irrefutable evidence that Iran is putting its best troops on the ground in the war-torn country to aid the brutal Assad regime.
Husseini, a veteran of the Iraq-Iran war, was a principal player in the battles in northern Syria and had waged a campaign against the Kurds in northwestern Iran.
With the Iranians on the ground and the Russians pounding Aleppo with airstrikes, Assad has two powerful allies that could very well turn the tide of the war and virtually annihilate Kurdish resistance and keep Assad in power. The consequences of a victory for Assad would not only be devastating to the Kurds and Syrians, but also to the region. The Middle East would remain unstable for decades to come and Iran would pose a major threat to every nation in the Levant and the Gulf regions.
Willful denial by western allies, although making major military pushes in Mosul and continuing airstrikes in Syria, only highlight an obtuse foreign policy that is doomed to tragic failure. The Iranians have never been closer to controlling the fate of Syria than now.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, Iran “has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep President Bashar Assad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use Syrian territory and asset to pursue its regional interests should Assad fall.”
Remarkably, Iran has set in motion plans to help Assad achieve victory, but if he loses the war the alternative would be to keep Iran the leading power in the region. Can anybody provide a more clear-headed and far-reaching strategy forged by the western coalition? Absolutely not. Which makes an Assad — or Iranian — victory far more likely than the West achieving its goal to liquidate Assad and his army.
Iran is already advising and supplying military equipment to the Shabiha militias, which support Assad, but are dependent on Iran for support. Whatever the outcome of the war, the militias will be in Iran’s pocket. Iran has won praise from some westerners for its drive to use an Iranian-Iraqi Shiite army to capture Tel Afar in Western Iraq to help dispose of Daesh in Mosul just 55 kilometers away. The real reason, however, is to establish a land bridge from Mosul to Tehran to allow Iran’s military an unobstructed route for Shiite soldiers and Hezbollah. This, according to reports, is a plan that won approval from the Russians without the consent, or perhaps even the knowledge, of the western coalition. To add insult and humiliation to the West, the United States had supplied the Iraqi Army with tanks, Howitzers and other military vehicles that ultimately will end up in the hands of Iran and Russia and used against the Kurds if not the US-led coalition.
The US-led coalition is capable, but lacks the will to protect its own interests in the Middle East. Russia and Iran have flummoxed even the most seasoned western strategists who are attempting to halt Assad’s progress with both hands tied behind their backs.
Without committing ground troops and the courage to counter Russian and Iranian military personnel, Assad’s victory and certainly an Iranian victory, is very likely.
Of course, committing ground troops in Syria is too painful for the United States given the shellacking it received in Iraq over a decade. The American public is not ready to contemplate another war that could claim another 4,000 American lives, if not more. But the alternative is too horrific to consider. Iran and Russia will claim the Middle East as their own and mini-wars will erupt from one end of the region to the other, which eventually will evolve into a conflagration.
• Sabria S. Jawhar, Ph.D. Assistant professor of Applied and Educational Linguistics Languages and Cultural Studies Department King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences National Guard Health Affairs (NGHA).