Commentary

Iran has more at stake in Syria than America and its allies

Publisher
Civil war Proxy war International relations Syria
Description

Amid all the debate about what the West should or shouldn’t do about the Syrian civil war, few if any commentators acknowledge the reality that the political outcome in Syria matters more to regional states than it does to the West.

That isn't a criticism of the West - it's simply a reflection of reality. Damascus is a long way from Washington (and Canberra for that matter), but not so far from Tehran. And of all the external actors involved in the Syrian morass, no one wants an outcome favourable to its own interests more than Iran.

Syria is pivotal to Iran’s desire for strategic reach in the Middle East because it allows it to overcome some of its structural deficiencies. Iran is an outlier in the Arab world — it is Shia, not Sunni; it is Persian, not Arab; and it speaks Farsi, not Arabic.

As a consequence, it seeks to exert influence through proxies and allies. It established Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early 1980s as an armed Arab proponent of militant Shi'ism loyal to the Iranian concept of vilayet-e faqih and therefore beholden to the edicts of Iran's supreme leader.

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