The breakdown of Syrian civil society—the protests against President Assad turned violent repression from Assad turned, at this point, basically revolution against Assad—has revealed Damascus’ role as the linchpin of Iran’s ability to extend its influence and project its power. Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, and Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, were both based in Damascus and both reliant on Iran for funding. Hezbollah has stood by Assad and duly seen its reputation in the region plummet. By contrast, Hamas is departing Damascus for greener shores (likely Cairo or Qatar) and, despite having reportedly lost Iranian money, now enjoys greater prestige than ever before: Reconciliation with Fatah is back on track and a state visit of the Gaza prime minister to Istanbul is in the bag.
A bit of news from the Washington Times‘ Ben Birnbaum confirms the Assad regime’s importance to Iran and as a corollary the blow that the fall of Assad would represent to the Islamic Republic. He reports that Iran tried to bribe Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood into backing Assad by offering it four posts in the Syrian government. Which reveals not only Iran’s interest in maintaining Assad’s power and other actors’ support for it, but also its influence in Syria, as captured by its ability to guarantee government posts in what is, after all, ostensibly another sovereign country.