Everyone is talking Iran. Go to any AIPAC meeting and you will hear about Iran, and if Israel’s PM speaks publicly he will surely mention Iran.
However, the greatest opportunity to curb Iran’s ambitions is sitting on the world’s doorstep. The potential upcoming fall of the Syrian regime opens the door for Israel to finally gain greater regional stability and for the world to begin throwing off the yoke of Iranian fear.
Syria is the long arm of Iran, its striking force. From within Syria’s borders the powerful terror/political groups Hezbollah and Hamas suckle the poison milk of armament, training, and Jihad inculcation in relative safety. Syria provides the key overland route between Iran and Lebanon which has served as a conduit for the transfer of massive shipments of military hardware to Hezbollah in from Iran. The US State Department estimates Iranian support of Hezbollah ranges between $100 – $200 million annually. Through this military might, south Lebanon has become the sole domain of Hezbollah. Syria is also host to Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and Hamas’ control room of terror. That makes perfect sense since both Hamas and Hezbolla are Iranian proxies, and Iranian proxies feel good in Syria.
But now, the Syrian regime is facing what the Iranian regime faced in 2009 – a popular revolt. This time there is also an ethnic component: Bashar Assad’s Shia sect, the Alawis, are but a 15% of Syria’s majority Sunni population. The Syrian regime, true to its emulation of the Iranian regime, is simply killing people in the streets to put down the revolt. So far the UN believes that the assault on opposition supporters has left more than 3,500 dead in nine months. People on the ground report much greater numbers, upwards of 10,000.
In Syria, the opposition forces are gathering steam. Syrian army defectors, some 15,000 Sunni conscripts, are banding together under the name Free Syria Army and are transforming the uprising into an armed insurgency. A new umbrella organization called Syria’s National Council is trying to unite anti-government groups. Even the Arab League, usually reticent to call out a member state, has strongly condemned and then suspended Syria from its ranks.
However, while Syrians unite to fight the regime, and members of the Arab League feel the pressure of the Arab street, China and Russia have shown support for Assad’s grip. In early October, Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution blaming the Syrian regime for the escalation of violence. Syria has long been Russian’s main ally in the Middle East and Russia maintains a naval base there. China fears instability in a region that sells it oil. Both Russia and China also have important economic and geopolitical interests in Iran and do not want its power diminished.
But even the Chinese and Russian wall is destined to crumple. Ausama Monajed, an adviser to the president of Syrian National Council, was quoted in “The Atlantic” saying that “The only thing saving the regime so far has been that Russia and China were prepared to block any resolution against Syria at the Security Council. But now it has become clear that the Arab League will use its leverage with Russia and China to persuade them to back their position and not use their veto power, and it is clear that neither Russia nor China would compromise their position with the Arab League, particularly Saudi Arabia, just to save Assad.”
So far the Arab Spring may have benefited Iran overall. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-Syrian Fulbright scholar and columnist for Harvard International Review, wrote on Fox: “In terms of the nuclear proliferation, the events of the Arab Spring seem to have benefited the Iranian regime due to the fact that it has diverted the attention of the international community from Iranian nuclear development to the socio-political transitions in neighboring Arab nations.”
That may have been true up to this point. But with the upcoming fall of the Assad regime Iran’s power will be weakened, at least locally. The pernicious overland route between Iran and Hezbollah will be hampered or broken. Hezbollah will have to go at it alone and maybe face their own Arab Spring down the line. Without the Assad-state, the Iranian backing of Hamas and Hezbollah will wither and leave the terror proxies more vulnerable to an Israeli attack as well.
No one knows what will replace the brutal Assad regime: a Jihadist junta, a drawn out civil war or, or even the eventual rise of a freedom loving society. But it is certain that breaking the Syria-Iran axis will benefit Israel and the world also stands to gain through any weakening of the ambitious Iranian war machine.
About the Author: Yishai Fleisher is the Contributing Editor and PR manager at the JewishPress.com, and Israel's only English language broadcast radio show host (Galey Yisrael 106.5FM). Yishai is an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, they have two children, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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