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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Iran Expands Role in Syria in Conjunction With Russia’s Airstrikes

From The Wall Street Journal:

Iran is expanding its already sizable role in Syria’s multisided war in the wake of Russia’s airstrikes, despite the risk of antagonizing the U.S. and its Persian Gulf allies who want to push aside President Bashar al-Assad.

Politicians in the region close to Tehran as well as analysts who have been closely following its role in Syria say a decision has been made, in close coordination with the Russians and the Assad regime, to increase the number of fighters on the ground through Iran’s network of local and foreign proxies.

The support also could involve more Iranian commanders, military advisers and expert fighters usually assigned to these units, these people said.

Even more than Russia, Iran has long been Mr. Assad’s main backer, providing him with financial and military lifelines as he has battled rebel groups and Islamic State, the Sunni Muslim extremist group. The U.S. and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, want to push Mr. Assad aside.

Since late 2012 Iran has played a lead role in organizing, training and funding local pro-regime militias in Syria, many of them members of Mr. Assad’s Alawite minority, a branch of Shiite Islam. Experts believe they number between 150,000 and 190,000—possibly more than what remains of Syria’s conventional army.

Despite ideological differences between Syria’s secular Baath Party regime and Iran’s Islamic government, the countries have been allies since Iran’s revolution in 1979.

Syria, at first the dominant power in the relationship, supported Iran in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and became a primary conduit for Iranian aid for other Shiite groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2011, Iran became the dominant partner. A U.N. official this year valued Iran’s aid to Syria at billions of dollars annually, a sum that has helped support local militias dominated by Alawites.

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