Hanin Ghaddar writes: Fundamentally, Iran wants in Syria what is has in Lebanon — weak, ineffective state institutions incapable of making decisions without the approval of their patrons. As in Lebanon, Iran wants to indirectly control Syria’s state institutions and have access to the Golan in the same way it has access to South Lebanon through Hezbollah.
Of course Putin mainly wants to empower himself, but he needs the Syrian institutions to do so. Russia wants to preserve the Syrian state. Putin wants to prop Assad up simply because the state institutions — including the army and the security apparatus — are still linked to his regime. Putin is not investing in Assad per se, but rather in Syria’s institutions. That’s why Russia has only supplied weapons to the Syrian Army and wants all militias united under it.
Unlike Tehran, Moscow is not interested in changing demography or in maintaining the Shiite/Alawite corridor. Moscow does not want to see Assad go and then be implicitly replaced by Soleimani. Assad must go eventually, but only after a stable political solution is secured. That’s why Russia went with Geneva I. [Continue reading…]