The Iranian regime’s political opportunism led to Tehran’s full support of Bashar Assad’s forces and the provision of military, financial, advisory and intelligence assistance to the Syrian regime. This aided the Assad regime’s mass killings of civilians and crimes against humanity. In addition, Iran’s deployment of foreign militias and terrorist-designated groups to fight in Syria spiraled the initial uprising into a fully-fledged war and further radicalized and militarized the conflict. Currently, the Iranian regime has significantly infiltrated, and exercises control over, the Syrian political, intelligence and military establishments.
Many experts and scholars contend that, if it was not for Iran’s support, Assad’s regime would have been toppled at the beginning of the uprising — similar to what happened to Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.
It goes without saying that the Iranian regime’s political and military interventions significantly contributed to turning Syria into a nation that is described as experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis of our times, according to the UN.
As a result, this humanitarian issue begs the following question: Given the Iranian regime’s key role in the Syrian civil war and assistance to Assad’s commission of war crimes, how have the Iranian leaders been helping the Syrian people — the young men, women and children who are suffering the consequences of this conflict? Given the Iranian regime’s interventionist role in Syria, it is now its responsibility to bear the consequences of this bloody civil war, Assad’s war crimes and the ongoing humanitarian tragedy.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, has reported that more than 465,000 people have been killed or are missing in Syria’s civil war. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Syria has the largest internally displaced population in the world. The Pew Research Center says there are now more than 12.5 million displaced Syrians (that is over half of the entire pre-war population), about six million of whom, including 2.8 million children, are still in the country. Approximately 70 percent of Syrians are living below the poverty line, according to the UNHCR.
Leaders in Tehran view Syria solely through the prism of political and strategic opportunism as they aim to expand their influence in the region, achieve their hegemonic ambitions and strengthen the hold on power of the ruling clerics.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Countries that are much further away from Syria than Iran (such as in North Africa or the West) have accepted Syrian refugees. Even a small, distant country like Iceland has accepted them.
Because of its wide-ranging influence in the Syrian conflict, Iran has the resources to take in many Syrian women and children, who are suffering and have no shelter. Nevertheless, there has been no attempt to do so.
The Iranian regime’s lack of help for Syrian refugees and those who are displaced internally with no shelter or food highlights the fact that the lives of the Syrian people have no meaning for the Iranian leaders. This humanitarian tragedy and the plight of millions of devastated women and children has no meaning for them.
The Iranian leaders are viewing Syria solely through the prism of political and strategic opportunism as they aim to expand Tehran’s influence in the region, achieve its hegemonic ambitions and, more importantly, strengthen the hold on power of the ruling clerics.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh