Syria's Defense Minister and Deputy Commander in Chief of armed forces, Fahad Jasim Al Freij (the Commander is Bashar Assad himself), just visited Tehran. If we are to believe Sana, the mouthpiece of the Assad regime, and I, for one, do not, the parties discussed cooperation in face "of terrorism." In the eyes of Syria and Iran, the enemies of Assad are all "terrorists," which means the vast majority of the Syrian people, which opposes the Alawite-dominated regime. Be it as it may, the visit was not about "terrorists," rather it was about the survivability of the Assad regime, and with it, the severe implications of a possible collapse in Damascus over Iran's regional aspirations.
It has been the consistent view of this blog ever since the Syrian civil war started, that the regime cannot win. It is usually the case, that a process can be anticipated and predicted, not so the exact timing of it coming to an end. In that case, the exact timing and circumstances of the downfall of the Assad dynasty. Since the regime has not collapsed, some impatient pundits and policy makers in DC have started to spread the idea that Assad is coming out as the winner in the bloody civil war in his country. No, he does not, and in fact, while the final defeat may not be behind the door, there have been some major local defeats recently, which clearly indicate, that the regime and his Iranian allies are losing, and losing big time. First, the regime has proved unable to regain control in South Syria, near the borders with Israel and Jordan, an area very close to Damascus . Then there is the inability of the Syrian army and Hezbollah to maintain a steady control over the Kalamun area , dominating important supply lines along the border with Lebanon. When the Assad and Hezbollah forces took this area over, their success was hailed as an indication that they are winning the entire war. Since then, the battlefield there has turned into a killing field for the regime forces and their Lebanese allies. Then came the greatest defeat of all, the loss of the town Jisr al Soughour near Idlib in North Syria. This is a strategic loss, because this town controls the roads to the Alawite heartland. Assad home base is now in danger. Not yet a game changer, but much more than just a red light to the regime. What happens is the result of the fact, that demography starts to take its toll. There simply are many more Sunni Muslims than Alawites and Sh'iites, and also the flow of Sunni volunteers from the Sunni world outnumbers the support which the regime receives from Sh'iites mobilized by Iran. Too many times the end of the regime seemed imminent, and the end was not coming, so it will be wise not to draw dramatic conclusions this time, but the Iranians are worried and they know why.
Even within the regime, there is growing opposition to the actual Iranian domination of Syria. General Rustum Ghazala, an Alawite and a close confidant of Assad paid in his life for expressing opposition to the Iranian role. He was declared dead few days ago, just a day before he was supposed to appear in a Lebanese TV station owned by no other than Sa'ad Hariri, the son of former P.M Rafiq Hariri, who was murdered in 2005 by a joint Syrian-Hizballah operation. But then, the Iranians do not really care about a Syrian General , their concerns go far deeper .
They are aware of the fact, that too many impatient D.C. Middle East hands are expressing the view, that maybe if you cannot beat them , you should join them. Them in this case are the Mullahs in Tehran, who seem bent on replacing the historic Fertile Crescent with an Iranian-dominated Sh'iite Crescent. Iran seems to have its way in Iraq, it is calling the shots in Yemen, and it maintains the Assad regime in Syria in face of a Sunni opposition, perhaps also Israeli desire to see Assad out. While the Israelis are maintaining public neutrality in the Syrian conflict, the Israeli air force is rumored to be behind successful air strikes against Syrian and Hezbollah targets. The Israelis do not refer in public to these rumors, but they make it known through leaks and insinuations that they are indeed doing that. The elephant in the room, which is also blamed for the accurate intelligence which used by the rebels who managed recently to eliminate some senior Iranian officers in Syria. Of all the countries which are subjected to Iranian subversion and military intervention, Syria is the most vulnerable, because if Assad falls, even if he retreats to the Alawite heartland, it is not only Syria which may be lost, but also the Hezbollah in Lebanon will come under immense pressure, and the Sunnis of Iraq will also boosted. Syria ,therefore, is extremely significant to Iran. The entire notion, promoted so carefully by Iran and tired people in DC, as well as in other Western countries, is likely to be seen in its true light, an illusion , an historic aberration.
The Sh'iite Crescent is not going to be with us for too long. Damascus could very well be the first domino to fall. This is why there was this urgent meeting in Tehran, and this is why Iranian sources spread the notion, that Syria should take strong measures against Israel. The Israel card all over again. It is to be hoped, that it is taken seriously in Jerusalem. Assad may fall, but he and his patrons in Tehran will not allow it to pass unnoticed.