Iran bolsters militias in Syria
By The Washington Post
Published: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, 7:54 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar Assad's government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.
The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials believe Iran's long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in place should Syria fractures into separate ethnic and sectarian enclaves.
A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria.
“It's a big operation,” the official said. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it's important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on.”
Iran's strategy, a senior Arab official agreed, has two tracks. “One is to support Assad to the hilt; the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses.”
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Syrian fragmentation along religious and tribal lines is a growing concern for neighboring governments and the Obama administration as the civil war approaches its third year with little sign of a political solution or military victory for either Assad's forces or the rebels.
Rebel forces, drawn largely from Syria's Sunni majority, are far from united, with schisms along religious, geographic, political and economic lines. Militant Islamists, including many from other countries and with ties to al-Qaida, are growing in power.
Kurdish nationalists have their own militias, with control over major swaths of the northeast part of the country and in parts of Aleppo, and far greater interest in autonomy than alliance with either side of the conflict.
Minority Christians have largely sided with Assad, fearing the outcome of an Islamist victory.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight
- Taliban threatens to disrupt presidential election in Afghanistan
- Israelis kill Jordanian judge at border checkpoint
- Jailed Egyptian activists allege abuse by prison guards
- Eastern European military officers say security, economic ties blunt Russia’s war threat in Ukraine
- Autopsy details sicken Pistorius
- Van der Sloot to be extradited to U.S. in 2038
- Investigators chase ‘every angle’ in missing Malaysian jet
- In North Korea, voting’s really a breeze: You must vote and you get 1 candidate
- Guardsmen in Caracas block food-shortage protest march
- Egypt decrees protection for election commission