As concerns grow in Israel and the West, Iran appears to be preparing for the likely fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to The Washington Post, Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, have established a network of militias across the crumbling Syria in efforts to protect Iranian interests in the event that the regime falls.
Quoting senior sources in the American administration and in the Middle East, The Washington Post reported that at least 50,000 soldiers have already been sent into Syria to support Assad's army, and also apparently as a contingency plan for the uncertain future.
"It's a big operation," the paper quoted an official in the Obama administration saying. "The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it's important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on."
Another source, a senior Arab official, agreed that Iran's efforts have two objectives: "One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses." According to the source, Iran's leadership knows that anarchy will reign in Syria in the event that Assad falls, and Tehran wants to ensure an Iranian foothold there.
Israel and the West have long harbored grave concerns as a nearly two-year-old civil war continues to sew strife and bloodshed in Syria. The main concern is the fate of Assad's chemical weapons reserves, which Israel worries will be transferred into Hezbollah hands, or alternately, fall into the hands of Syrian rebels.
During the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listed strife in Syria as one of the three key issues to be discussed in the planned meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, who is slated to visit Israel next month.