Iran may be preparing for post-Assad Syria

Statements from Iranian officials indicate that Iran may be preparing for a post-Assad Syria.  Of course, the Iranian government sees the Assad regime as a major foreign policy asset in its regional soft-power network.  The Iranian government is much stronger in the Middle East than at home.  For the past 30 years, Iran has tirelessly built a network of militants from  the Mahdi Army and other Islamists militias in Iraq to Hizbullah in Lebanon, arguably the most powerful resistance movement in the world, and Hamas in Palestine.  This is Iran’s main source of regional power that it uses to challenge any government that has contemplated attacking Iran. In other words, Iran may not be able to fight a conventional war with the US, or maybe even Israel, but it can respond to an attack with its network employing asymmetrical warfare, a method of war Iran has long mastered. Syria helps make much of that possible, especially in terms of Hizbullah.  Syria provides Iran with the only viable route to provide the resistance movement with weaponry.  That Iranian officials are beginning to criticize the Ba’ath regime in Syria means that Iran maybe hedging its bets.  After the Ba’ath regime’s failure to curtail the 6-month-long popular revolutionary movement in Syria, Iran may now be accepting the idea that the regime will fall and could be seeking to fix its image with the opposition, which may one day come to power and is justifiably sore with Iran for its long and continued support of the regime in Damascus. Here are the relevant statements from Iranian officials:

The cracks in the Iranian government’s formerly imperturbable support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continue to widen. Less than a week after Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi declared that the Assad regime had a responsibility to heed protesters’ “legitimate demands”, the semiofficial Fars News Agency quoted a member of the Majles’s National Security Commision, Ahmad Avaei (pictured), to the effect that Assad’s opposition to Israel and support for the Lebanese Hezbollah — a primary client of the Islamic Republic — no longer justified support for his embattled government. As reported in the Los Angeles Times,

“The fact is that supporting the Syrian rulers at any cost was not right, as those who staged the protests were Muslims, and their protests were legitimate,” Avaei said. […]

“Unfortunately, the Syrian leadership has realized too late the necessity of entering the reform process and should have done that much earlier to avoid the current crisis,” the lawmaker said. […]

Iranian officials’ switch to public criticism of the Syrian crackdown follows an apparently influential visit to Tehran late last month by Qatar’s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, who supports the Syrian uprising and called efforts to crush it “fruitless.”

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Iranian analyst and journalist, said in an interview that Iran had sought to reach out to at least one opposition group in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood

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