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The Iranification of Syria


Iran’s growing influence in Syria is visible in the streets, as the Syrian people remain helpless pawns on an international chessboard.

Iranian and Shia militia flags are now being paraded in the spiritual heart of Damascus, the magnificent Umayyad Mosque.

Iran’s involvement in Syria used to be discreet but these days it is blatant.

The ‘Iranification’ of Syria is gathering pace, almost as if it is a race to seize as much as possible before its puppet Assad regime collapses.

Iran may be prepared to sacrifice chief puppeteer President Bashar al-Assad and his corrupt elite, but under no circumstances is it prepared to surrender its vast economic investment in Syria, or more precisely, in regime-controlled Damascus and the “Shia crescent” that links to the coast via Hizbullah heartlands in Lebanon.

The most recent manifestation of this open determination to control Syria’s capital is the forced confiscation of hundreds of acres of land around the Iranian Embassy in the western suburb of Mezzeh.

Dubbed “Iranian Towers”, the scheme is tantamount to changing the demographic of this entire neighbourhood of Damascus. Residents displaced by the eviction order, mainly Sunni families on low incomes, werer reportedly not offered compensation. Evidently the opinions of such people will count for nothing in the Syria of the future which Iran is seeking to engineer.

On my recent visit to Damascus to retake my house from war profiteers, Iranian influence was already evident behind the scenes.

Friends and neighbours in the Old City told me that CCTV cameras had been installed along Al-Amin Street, a Shia quarter, by Iran, and the only building projects underway were all known to be Iranian-funded.

Wealthy Iranians are also distorting the property market by buying up prestige homes in affluent areas including the Old City, especially near Shia shrines like Sayyida Rouqqaya. Among ordinary Damascene residents the strong perception is that Iran is increasingly pulling the strings behind the facade of the Assad regime: as the regime weakens, Iran is taking advantage.

Masquerading as religious affinity between Shia Iran and Alawi-ruled Syria, this relationship has never been anything other than a marriage of convenience. It began when Syria supported Iran in the Iran-Iraq War back in 1980 to spite Saddam Hussein. But these days the partnership has become so unequal it is more like a master/slave relationship, one of total dependence.

Since the 2011 Syrian uprising the Iranian government has been maintaining the Assad regime in power by supplying riot control equipment, intelligence monitoring techniques, snipers and oil to sustain its war activities.

Using experience honed during its own 2009 Green Revolution, Iran has developed the world’s most sophisticated “cyber-army” technology in the world after China.
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