Iran ready to push Assad aside?

An email dated December 13, 2011 (part of the intelligence trove newly released by Wikileaks) containing information gathered by Reva Bhalla, Director of Analysis at Stratfor, says that Iran recognizes that Bashar al-Assad will soon lose control of Syria and that it might be in Tehran’s interests to see him go sooner rather than later.

Both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have concluded that Asad’s regime cannot be rescued. It is perfectly understood that the regime in Damascus will fall along lines similar to the Libyan model. There will have to be a coup in Damascus, be it a military or political one.

One must not dismiss the pragmatism of Khamenei. Iran appears to be willing to use its influence in Syria to stage a coup, provided that it is able to ensure that the new leadership will continue to pursue excellent relations with Tehran. The Iranians have approached the Americans on this. In the past, Iran collaborated with the U.S. on the ouster of Saddam Hussein and Iran won big in Iraq. The Iranians would not mind working again on ousting Asad if they can secure good results in Syria. Syria’s contiguity to Iraq allows Iran to play a direct role in the affairs of Damascus.

The Iranians feel they need to act on Syria soon because the Turks have their own plans for Syria and are not coordinating with the Iranians. He says the Turks are moving slowly but systematically. Iran does not want to allow Turkey to take over Syria. Whereas the Turks are coordinating with the Brotherhood and the FSA, the Iranians prefer a palace coup in damascus in order to maintain their ties with Asad’s successors. What is delaying action in Syria is the fact that the U.S. has not yet decided on the shape of the post-Asad political system. Nevertheless, he insists that Asad’s regime will fall, although the future of Syria after the regime change remains nebulous.

Who is “he”, Stratfor’s source? A member of Hezbollah’s politburo — not someone likely to be cheering Asad’s departure.

The analysis also says:

Alawite officers are aware that Asad is trying to find an asylum for himself and his family should his regime become unslavageable. This is upsetting many Alawites who are coming to realize that Asad will abandon them. If so, they reason that it would be suicidal to continue to win the wrath of the Sunnis.

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Comments

  1. Lysander says:

    I’m taking all this with a grain of salt. Assad is now fighting an armed insurgency supported by the Gulf states. He does not worry about mass protests ala Egypt or Tunisia. I can’t gauge the situation inside Syria, but around the Arab world, support for the Syrian rebels has plummeted, except among salfists. Even the Angry Arab, who hates the regime, has become equally if not more critical of the rebels.

    So it is not at all clear to me that Assad is falling anytime soon. Qadhafi survived months of NATO bombardment with a rebel army in control of half of Libya. Assad’s situation is much better than his was. And rightly or wrongly, (rightly IMHO) the regime narrative of armed salafists supported by the Saudis and Qatar has caught on. In the Arab world anyway.

    So my conclusion is, barring a NATO attack, Assad will survive, though I could see the Iranians and Russians engineering Assad’s departure to preempt that outcome.