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Victor Bjorgan: Iran as regional power and Stratfor´s wrong analysis on Syria.

Victor Bjorgan - Publisher

Hezbollah supporters carrying Assad´s picture.


Published 2012/July/24 –   I just read todays report from Stratfor / George Friedman entitled “Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime.”  This is an interesting study on the situation in Syria, whose thorough reading I recommend to our readers. This Stratfor report although it has very updated information, is wrong in their conclusions. Here I publish some parts of the analysis of Mr. Friedman with my comments.

1)  Stratfor says: “We have entered the endgame in Syria.  That doesn’t mean that we have reached the end by any means, but it does mean that the precondition has been met for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. We have argued that so long as the military and security apparatus remain intact and effective, the regime could endure. Although they continue to function, neither appears intact any longer; their control of key areas such as Damascus and Aleppo is in doubt, and the reliability of their personnel, given defections, is no longer certain. We had thought that there was a reasonable chance of the al Assad regime surviving completely. That is no longer the case.

Hezbollah supporters carrying Assad´s picture.

MESN: I think the outcome is unclear. In my analysis, the current regime will end as we know it, but will still preserve regions, and areas of Damascus. The model to follow by the regime is the lebanese model, where Hezbollah controls part of the capital and the south of the country.  For logistical reasons, the regime will try to preserve military influence in the south west of Syria, from Damascus to the north of at-Tarif, near the iraqi border. That is why the most probable outcome of the Syrian situation is the collapse of the central government and the disintegration into regions held by various forces. The south of Syria will be under the support of Iran and Hezbollah, and with access to chemical weapons.

2) While In the analysis Stratfor writes a lot about the Russian and Chinese Strategy, they do not describe  the strategy of other players like Israel.

MESN: The current situation in Syria is very dangerous to the peace process in the Middle East. With Syria divided in regions as an outcome of the fall of the central government, Israel could be facing the expansion of Hezbollah fighters and Iran influence at its borders, this time with the possibility of having Syrian chemical weapons.  Given the economic situation of Iran, the division of Syria and the preservation of its influence in the South of Syria could be less costly for the Iranians than sustaining a central government.  For Iran, the events in Syria still represente an opportunity of having a powerful position from west Afganistan to the south of Lebanon,  with the inclusion of influence in Iraq and parts of Syria.

3)  Stratfor says ” It seems the Russians began calculating the end for the regime some time ago. Russia continued to deliver ammunition and other supplies to Syria but pulled back on a delivery of helicopters…They were backing off from supporting al Assad, their intelligence indicating trouble in Damascus. In the last few days the Russians have moved to the point where they had their ambassador to France suggest that the time had come for al Assad to leave — then, of course, he denied having made the statement.”

MESN: The Russians and Chinese will continue opposing any action/statement from the Security Council. The end of the central government in Syria, is not the end of the presence of Russia in the country, on the contrary.

4) Stratfor defines the situation as “A strategic blow to Iran” .  Stratfor says that as the Russians withdraw support, Iran is now left extremely exposed. There had been a sense of inevitability in Iran’s rise in the region, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula. The decline of al Assad’s regime is a strategic blow to the Iranians in two ways. First, the wide-reaching sphere of influence they were creating clearly won’t happen now. Second, Iran will rapidly move from being an ascendant power to a power on the defensive. The place where this will become most apparent is in Iraq.

MESN: Wrong. Iran will try to transform the weakness in the central Syrian government to strengthen its position in the south of Syria. A splitted Syria represents an opportunity for Iran.  The Iranians will preserve its influence in Iraq, because they need it to protect its interests in Lebanon and Syria.  Iran is still in the region, and will remain there in the near future.

5) Stratfor  is mentioning the role of Turkey and its ” intensifying interest in Iraq” Stratfor reports that : “in recent days the Turks have announced plans for pipelines in Iraq to oil fields in the south and in the north. Turkish economic activity is intensifying. Turkey is the only regional power that can challenge Iran militarily. It uses that power against the Kurds in Iraq. But more to the point, if a country builds a pipeline, it must ensure access to it, either politically or militarily. Turkey does not want to militarily involve itself in Iraq, but it does want political influence to guarantee its interests. Thus, just as the Iranians are in retreat, the Turks have an interest in, if not supplanting them, certainly supplementing them.”

MESN: that could have a domino effect in Iraq. If Turkey wants in, then the Kurdish will reevaluate their relations with the Iranians.

6) In the case of the United States interests in the region, Stratfor says that “From the American point of view, al Assad’s decline opens two opportunities. First, its policy of no direct military intervention but unremitting political and, to a lesser extent, economic pressure appears to be working in this instance. More precisely, even if it had no effect, it will appear that it did, which will enhance the ability of the United States to influence events in other countries without actually having to intervene. Second, the current situation opens the door for a genuine balance of power in the region that does not require constant American intervention. One of the consequences of the events in Syria is that Turkey has had to reconsider its policy toward countries on its periphery. In the case of Iraq, Turkey has an interest in suppressing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants who have taken refuge there and defending oil and other economic interests. Turkey’s strategy is moving from avoiding all confrontations to avoiding major military commitments while pursuing its political interests. In the end, that means that Turkey will begin moving into a position of balancing Iran for its own interests in Iraq. This relieves the United States of the burden of containing Iran. We continue to regard the Iranian sphere of influence as a greater threat to American and regional interests than Iran’s nuclear program. The decline of al Assad solves the major problem. It also increases the sense of vulnerability in Iran. Depending on how close they are to creating a deliverable nuclear weapon — and our view is that they are not close — the Iranians may feel it necessary to moderate their position.”

MESN: Wrong again. With the end of a central government in Syria, the situation will be very difficult for Israel, which is America´s  only real ally  in the region. Turkey is starting to try to have influence in the region, but it will take many years before they achieve that. Maybe that will never happen. The two major losers  due to the current development of the Syrian crisis are USA and Israel.