TEL AVIV – Iran’s involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq is meant not only to ensure the survival of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and weaken anti-Shi’ite militants in the region, but to ensure that Iranian weapons smuggling to Syria and Lebanon continues unhindered, according to the analysis of a senior Arab intelligence official speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem.
The issue of weapons smuggling, the official noted, demonstrates that Iran’s regional interests are markedly different from those of Russia.
“The Russians aren’t planning to become occupiers,” he said.
Indeed, they seek to strengthen their hold in Syria, their main military base in the region, but Iran seeks to wield influence over Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In Iraq and Syria they are the real decision-makers, hence they oppose Russia’s support for the attempts to resolve the conflict, because it may undermine their hegemony.
Iran is prodding the Syrian army to complete its takeover of Islamic State-controlled areas near the Iraqi border, he added, in order to enable a free flow of smuggled weapons.
“Iran wants to undermine the gains of the Russian army, assisted by Hezbollah, to make a point that the Iranian forces and weapons supplies play a decisive role,” he said. “They want to create an Iranian-Syrian axis, propped up by Iranian weapons, to serve as a counterbalance to Russia’s gains over IS and take some of the credit.”
Iran also hopes to capitalize on the loyalty of many in the Syrian army and turn the recent gains in the Palmyra area into a complete takeover of the Iraq-Syria border region, despite Russian plans to inflict losses on IS in Raqqa beforehand, he stated.
“Tensions between Iran and Russia have come to the fore recently, mainly around military strategy, the Geneva reconciliation process, and Russian-Saudi détente, and are likely to increase even further.”
Russia, in its attempts to call the shots in the Middle East, may stop doing Iran’s bidding and try instead establish good relations with Tehran’s devoted adversaries, chief among them Saudi Arabia, the official concluded.