It's time for the US to quit enabling Iran in Syria
If the Trump administration is serious about taking on Iran in the Middle East it must transform its strategy in Syria for fighting the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). Our current strategy will only continue to strengthen Tehran’s grip on the region.
The US needs a new approach that gives it the independence and leverage it needs to begin pushing back successfully.
It won’t be easy. The strategy the administration inherited from President Obama sees Iran as a partner in the fight. The U.S. has therefore done nothing to contain the dramatic and alarming Iranian expansion of military power in Syria.
Yet the expansion was avoidable.
Tehran had used Syria as a base for Lebanese Hezbollah, HAMAS, and its own subversive activities for decades at no cost. The 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar al Assad was a blow to its position. Therefore Iran rushed to support Assad, sending in special Qods Force operatives, then advisors from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
As the revolt against Assad deepened, Tehran added thousands of fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq’s Shi’a militias. Conventional combat forces of the IRGC joined in when a Russian air campaign in support of Assad started in late 2015.
Today, Iran commands tens of thousands more fighters in Syria than it did before the Arab Spring uprising. It has established its own military headquarters and embedded troops and advisors so deeply in the Assad regime that it cannot survive without them.