Hard to know exactly what to make of this pledge by Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, when he said, “Iran will never allow the resistance axis – of which Syria is an essential pillar – to break.”
It could be meaningless diplomatese. Or it could signal Iran’s determination to save the lynchpin of their regional policy at whatever the cost.
What is happening in Syria is not an internal issue but a conflict between the axis of resistance on one hand, and the regional and global enemies of this axis on the other,” he said.
Assad appeared on television for the first time in two weeks in footage showing him meeting Mr Jalili and vowed to cleanse Syria of “terrorists,” as his troops stepped up air and artillery bombardments on rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
“The Syrian people and their government are determined to purge the country of terrorists and to fight the terrorists without respite,” he said, according to state news agency SANA.
Tehran, which has voiced growing criticism of support by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the rebels, also sent its foreign minister to Ankara and a letter to Washington holding them responsible for the fate of 48 kidnapped Iranians.
Iranian state media quoted Mr Jalili as saying Tehran “believes in national dialogue between all domestic groups to be the solution, and believes foreign solutions are not helpful.” “The Syrian people are hostile to any plan supported by the Zionists and the US,” he was reported as saying.
The loss of Syria as an ally would be a devastating blow to Iran and cause an earthquake in the Middle East. A post-Assad Syria would almost certainly be a Sunni state allied with Saudi Arabia — an intolerable situation for Tehran, who sees the Saudis as their number one enemy in the region. Iran’s proxies Hezbollah and Hamas would find it difficult to be re-supplied with arms given that their Syrian conduit would be closed down. And Iran would be further isolated in losing its valuable ally.
Iran has no realistic way to send its military into Syria. But Hezbollah in next door Lebanon might be induced to intervene beyond what is believed to be their role in Syria at present — training and technical assistance to Assad’s forces. And there always the threat that Iran might unleash a wave of terrorist attacks in the region. This would especially be true if there were states that intervened on the side of the rebels. Iran has already warned those nations opposed to President Assad that there would be a price to pay for such internvention.
In short, if Iran wanted to make trouble, they have the means to do so.