Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"The Implications of a Syrian Withdrawal from Lebanon"

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) reports that Iran will attempt to fill the vacumn left by the Syrian troops returning home.
Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. With its Syrian ally in disarray, Tehran will attempt to fill the void left behind by Syria's putative departure from Lebanon. According to some sources, Iran has been fortifying Hezbollah bases in the face of a Syrian troop withdrawal in an attempt to enhance its strategic position. Iran has been using Revolutionary Guard units to fortify important positions Syria has promised to vacate, such as early warning stations. Iran maintains about 1,000 Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, serving as ideological and military advisors to Hezbollah. Tehran is also reportedly increasing arms shipments to Hezbollah, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, one of which unnerved the Israeli Air Force by recently penetrating Israeli airspace undetected. It is also using the organization to create a larger pro-Iranian Shi'a force in Lebanon. Tehran thus wields the ability to ignite a larger Middle Eastern conflict.

According to a spokesman for the Druze opposition, "Iran sees the mounting pressure on its partner Syria to withdraw and is using it as an opportunity to become the next power broker in Lebanon." By fortifying its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, Tehran sends a resounding signal that Israel cannot disregard Iranian interests without suffering harsh consequences. More pointedly, it serves as a visible and powerful deterrent against any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Syrian President Assad recently appointed Assaf Chawkat, a family member, to the state's head intelligence post. Chawkat, who has close ties to Hezbollah, has long overseen relations between the organization and its Iranian sponsor. Chawkat has most likely assured Tehran that Hezbollah will not be weakened by a Syrian withdrawal and that Damascus will not restrain it if Israel or the U.S. attacks Tehran's nuclear facilities. Hezbollah will remain a potent force that Tehran will control for the foreseeable future.