This fact sheet explores the question: Why does Iran support Syria?
- Syria is a bridge to Iran’s support of Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Assad were to fall and be replaced by a Sunni regime, this bridge would likely be destroyed and greatly hinder Iran’s influence in the Middle East. This is part of Iran’s greater regional strategy which some have termed the Shia Crescent. Iran has made huge inroads regionally in the last decade thanks to the destabilizing effects of the US invasion of Iraq and ISIS. This has allowed Iran to form a strategic path where their military can move unopposed from Tehran to Beirut. Syria’s Civil War opened the door for Hezbollah in Lebanon to move eastward and build a connection from Lebanon to Syria for Iran.
2. Iran’s Shia Crescent strategy stands as a bulwark against its regional rivals including Israel and Saudi Arabia. The fall of Assad in Syria would likely have resulted in a Sunni power to replace him. This would have cut off the Shia Crescent and boosted Saudi Arabia’s regional strength. For this reason the Iranian government and military have often said that the war in Syria is a foreign conspiracy to oust Assad (and as a result reduce Iranian influence in the region). While this may seem on the surface like a nonsensical conspiracy theory, the reality is that the petro states of the Gulf have in fact financed and armed many of the primary forces opposing Assad.
3. Syria has provided grounds not only to strengthen Hezbollah but also to enhance their arms from Iran for a potential future war with Israel.
4. Iran and the Assad regime in Syria share a similar Shiite Islamic tradition but this should not be seen as a primary motive for Iran’s involvement there. Geo-politics and not religion is what is driving this alliance.
- What Iran Really Wants in Syria (Foreign Policy)
This is “Why Does Iran Support Syria” fact sheet is part of the wider Complete Guide to the Syrian Civil War which you can locate here for full information on the Syrian Civil War, its history, politics and continuing crisis.