Tehran is developing its own plans for continuing the Syrian war and maintaining its grip on the country – even as Washington and Russia press on with secret discussions on the fate of Syrian president Bashar Assad, backed by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s mediation efforts in Damascus. Tuesday, Dec. 25, the envoy said after meeting Assad that he would stay on for another six days in the hope of persuading the parties to end their bloody hostilities.
At the same time, Iran is putting its military and intelligence assets in place ready for the day after Assad’s departure.
DEBKAfile reports: In the opinion of Saudi intelligence chiefs who attended the two-day GCC summit in Manama Monday and Tuesday, Iran has drawn up plans to sabotage any deal Washington and Moscow may pull off between Assad and the rebels for ending their war and incapacitate any transitional regime set up to replace the Assad presidency.
Those sources report that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already issued directives to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Al Qods Brigades (Iran’s external intelligence and terrorist arm), for perpetuating the Syrian conflict by means of a terrorist network spread across the country and operating in conjunction with local militias.
“These militias,” said one Saudi intelligence source, “all depend on Hizballah for their supplies of weapons, explosives, funds and intelligence.”
Their task together with the terrorist cells will be to keep Syria in a constant state of warfare and so prevent any central government in Damascus from exercising its authority after Assad’s exit. There will be one secure island in the havoc: a fortified enclave in the capital. This setup will resemble the fortified palace compound in Kabul where Afghan President Hamid Karzai is barricaded, or Baghdad’s Green Zone in which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is protected.
Iran’s Hizballah design for Syria borrows heavily from Soleimani’s al Qods program for Iraq in the years 2003-2007.
Then, Tehran used its terrorist squads under Hizballah’s guidance to systematically derail US control of the country. They generated violent mayhem for the purpose of rendering any pro-Western regime rising in Baghdad unsustainable and forced it to make way for a government dependent on Tehran.
Today, Iraq’s prime minister is reduced to a measure of dependence that leaves him powerless to stop the Iranian airlift bound for Syria transiting his country’s airspace and sends him running to Tehran for approval before every change of policy.
The Supreme Leader is believed by Saudi intelligence to have condemned post-Assad, post-war Syria to a version of this scenario and blocked any chance for the US and the West to extricate the country from Iran’s clutches, whether the Syrian ruler stays or goes.
Five years after performing for Tehran in Iraq, Hizballah has been recast for the return show in Syria – the only difference being the change in a key role. In Iraq, Al Qods benefited from the services of Hizballah’s late military chief Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Damascus in February, 2008. His successor is Wafiq Safa, a kinsman of Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, who is already working in Syria with the commander of Iranian forces in Lebanon, Gen. Hossein Mahadavi,.
Saudi intelligence is deeply pessimistic about the next stage of Syria’s future. They envisage Bashar Assad sticking it out in Damascus and pretty soon giving the order to launch chemical and biological warfare against the insurgency and Syria’s close neighbors.