“The war is winding down little by little. Assad has won and he will stay,” Robert Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who served as ambassador from 2011 to 2014, told The National in a Q & A. “He may never be held accountable, and Iran will be in Syria to stay. This is the new reality that we have to accept.”
Ford said that Iran, which with Russia has long propped up Assad, will maintain its presence in Syria. Iran backs thousands of fighters there, including militiamen and its own soldiers.
“The war has brought them closer,” he said, referring to Tehran and Damascus. “You have tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters, and they are not going home after this settles.”
The combatants’ lingering presence is a source of serious concern for Israel, Ford noted.
“If there is another Hezbollah-Israel war, a lot of these fighters are battle-hardened and would reinforce Hezbollah in any new war against Israel,” he said. “The shift in the dynamic in Syria has made the situation worse for Israel.”
Ford resigned as ambassador in 2014, saying that he no longer “could defend the American policy” in Syria.
Another adviser to Obama on Syria, Frederic Hof, wrote last August that the administration’s passive policy there was rooted in the fear that Iran might walk away from the nuclear deal.
“The administration’s policy toward Assad Syria (as opposed to ISIS Syria) rests on its desire to accommodate Iran—a full partner in Assad’s collective punishment survival strategy—so that the July 14, 2015 nuclear agreement can survive the Obama presidency,” he wrote.
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