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Iran, Hezbollah literally in control of Syria army

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What is left of Syria now engulfed in East-West proxy war demands major international policy shift

By Amir Basiri

In the absence of a strong will and determined policy in the West, and with U.S. President Barack Obama continuing to insist on “leading from behind” in the wake of the Paris and Mali attacks, Iran and its proxies have been taking advantage of the status quo and expanding their influence across their spheres of interest in the Middle East. Considering Syria as its 35th province, Tehran has gone the limits with all its resources to maintain the Bashar Assad dictatorship in power at all costs. In the course of the past 4½ years of carnage and bloodshed in Syria, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, enjoying the support of Shiites militias, are in full control of what is left of Assad’s army and make up the vast majority of the fighting units on the ground.

The new norm in Syria is that there is no longer any entity known as the “Syrian army”, as the force fighting to maintain the Assad regime intact is made up of mainly Iranians and Lebanese militias. For example, reports indicate that as much as 70 percent of the 9th Armored Division in Assad’s army are from Iran or Lebanon.

As Western officials seem more and more reluctant and having no appetite to enter any ground conflict in the Middle East, Russia has used the opportunity to claim a foothold in Syria and demands its own interest in any future of this war-torn state.

While Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif ridiculously claims his country has a role of merely attempting to facilitate a process to allow the Syrian people themselves determine their fate without any foreign intervention, recent reports indicate that thousands of Iranians are rushing to join a major offensive campaign near Aleppo in northern Syria to regain territory lost to Syrian opposition fighters.

The weak approach adopted by the West has also emboldened the Lebanese Hezbollah to openly defend its military support for Assad, despite the fact that this lethal group is branded a terrorist entity by the U.S. and European Union. Russia, again realizing the West has no stomach to bear any serious responsibility in the Middle East, has actually described Hezbollah as a “legitimate socio-political force” in Lebanon. Moscow is seeking its own interests in rushing to Assad’s support, as the Syrian army has disintegrated from the 300,000-soldier mark before 2011 to the 80,000 low estimated today.

Defectors of the Syrian army say Iran and Hezbollah are planning all the operations and issuing orders to the Syrian army. No Syrian army soldiers, not even generals, are allowed access to operations rooms in Syria. Officers of the opposition Free Syrian Army confirm such reports, saying their men are only fighting foreigners in Syria.

While Washington has only resorted to increasing sorties, dropping weapons and ammo for opposition groups and dispatching a small unit of 50 Special Forces to Syria, Hezbollah is paying its fighters $400 dollars for each month-long tours in the deadly conflict. Thousands upon thousands of fighters from Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and even mercenaries from Afghanistan have been sent to Syria under the bogus pretext of protecting Shiite sanctities. These men are mainly used as cannon-fodders for the Iran’s Quds Force operations. The status quo on the ground has reached a point that Shiite militias have in fact “occupied” Sunni mosques and are seen installing large posters of Iranian regime founder Khomeini and fanatic Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

With the helm of the Syrian army now under the control of Iran and Hezbollah, and Russia launching horrific indiscriminate airstrikes, the Syria war has left over 300,000 people dead and millions stranded inside the country and seeking refuge abroad. The latest International Syria Support group meeting in Austria gathering the UN, EU, U.S. and others bore no fruit, and the future continues to look dark in Syria. Thus, it is high time for the international community to once and for all adopt a serious policy and clean up the mess they have allowed Iran and its proxies create in the Middle East.

Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and supporter of democratic regime change in Iran. Follow him on Twitter: @Amir_bas

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