What will Iran do after Assad?
PREVIOUSLY, I expected that Iran would turn to a tug of war to perpetuate tension in the region. The logic of survival in Iran since the Khomeini revolution has been to focus on creating tension abroad and the target has been countries with multisectarian population. For this reason, Iran cannot be in peace with the Arabs despite many commonalities between the Iranians and the Arabs.
For Iran, it is the domestic issue that is the source of concern. An internal uprising or the awakening of the non-Persian nationalities within Iran has been a nightmare for the decision makers. Therefore, we wonder as why Iran antagonizes the region and the international community and ignites violence in the region. Additionally, Iran has been spending much of its wealth on radical organizations to create instability in the region. Now we know why! Iranian leaders cannot survive without creating an external enemy to keep all internal differences at bay.
In the past, Iranian leaders bragged that the Arab revolutions were inspired by the Iranian revolution. Ironically, when Iran’s stalwart ally in Damascus became the target of a Syrian revolution, Iranians turned to the conspiracy theory to justify its immoral support for the butcher of Syria. Additionally, when its ally in Iraq — Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki — became the target of demonstration, Iran issued a religious edict that banned protests against the government of Maliki. It also silenced Muqtada Sadr in favor of Maliki. Not surprisingly, Iran is scared of a possible downfall of Assad as this will have negative consequences on the political equation in the region. Obviously, Iran will be negatively affected by such a development. Seen in this way, Iran is working out a solution with Moscow that can lead to the removal of Assad while keeping the regime intact. This would be the only way to lessen the impact of the removal of Assad on Tehran.
A few weeks ago, Iran threatened the world with closing Hormuz Strait. Back then, I pointed out that at the moment of truth, Iran will be rational and will succumb, and this is exactly what happened. Closing the strait would contradict with Iranian public opinion. The Iranian people are fed up with these bankrupt policies. An average Iranian thinks that such policies will hurt him more than hurting the outside world. We knew back then that the message was not directed at the international community but rather at the internal public. It is important here to remind readers of the statements of the Iranian minister of intelligence when he said that Iran would not tolerate protest movements as had happened in 2009.
But Iran never stopped its attempts to push people of other countries to rise up. If this is not intervention in the internal affairs of Gulf countries, what is this then? The American veteran diplomat, Jeffery Feltman, warned that Iran had armed the Houthis in Yemen even after the departure of Ali Abdullah Saleh. He also said that Americans were concerned about the increasing role of Iran in Yemen. Iran is worried that its strategy in the region is on the decline. Even political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood are not in the same camp with Iran. In fact the Muslim Brothers voiced many criticisms against Iranian policies. For this reason, Syrian Muslim Brothers have refused all Iranian offers. Additionally, the Muslim Brothers of Egypt have rejected negotiating the security of the Gulf, as it is part of the national security of Egypt. Interestingly, Damascus refused the Iranian logic of the necessity of opening a front with Turkey.
Ankara was aware of this. A member of the Justice and Development Party said that his party understands well the Iranian political literature. Iranians did not find any place to create trouble except Tripoli. There is confirmed information that Assad will use his entire weapon to wipe out protesters. And yet, the logic of politics indicates that there may be a solution after all this bloodshed. To pave the way for the worst case scenario, there is an ongoing process of demographic changes. Forced immigration is under way to pave the way for establishing an Alawite entity in the mountain areas of Syria. But such entity cannot hold given the Syrians' as well as the Alawites' awareness.
Russian sources confirm that Moscow has conducted important talks with the Syrian opposition groups. Also, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass fled Syria as a result of coordination between Damascus and some Western countries. In Moscow, the opposition suggested his name as an accepted candidate to lead Syria in the transitional phase. All indications show that there is an attempt to remove Assad in a democratic way whereby Manaf Tlass can be appointed prime minister of a transitional government. Also Assad can hand over his power to his deputy. Some sources confirm that Farouq Shara’ is keeping low profile as he protested the military approach. In fact, he has been subjected to administrative confinement.
Clearly, all players are careful to find a safe exit for Assad as no one has an interest in having a strategic vacuum in Syria. Iran stands to lose in this game. Its strategic bet on Hamas, Houthis, Hezbollah and others will soon backfire. Of course, Iran will turn to the strategy of buying time as much as it can. At best, Iran can find a way that can force Assad to step down while keeping his regime intact. Therefore, we hear some Iranian leaders talk about the Syrian people›s right to self-determination through elections to be conducted in 2014. And yet, this time around, time is not going to work in favor of Tehran.
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