Iran looking beyond Al-Assad
Previously I wrote here, citing an informed official, stating that Iran is counting on Iraq as an alternative to Syria, in the case of Bashar al-Assad’s regime collapsing. Today, new information indicates that Iran is also maneuvering with the Houthis; supporting the notion that Tehran has become convinced that there is no hope for its Baathist ally in Damascus.
Information suggests that the Houthis, with the help of Tehran, are arranging their ranks today in preparation for the post-Ali Abdullah Saleh phase. Sources say that the Houthis, in significant numbers, are carrying out extensive military exercises, firing rockets, and conducting military operations. All of this is being carried out so that the Houthis are ready to engage Saudi Arabia in the coming phase.
Here some might say: What does this have to do with Iran, Syria and Iraq? The answer is clear. Tehran feels that it received a violent blow with the intervention of the Gulf Peninsula Shield forces in Bahrain, which thwarted Iran’s plan to contain Saudi Arabia through its eastern border. Iran also feels threatened today by a genuine danger in Lebanon, and particularly in the event of the fall of al-Assad. [Should this happen], the sectarian belt – which Iran has imposed on the region through the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis, and more recently through Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a scenario that the Jordanian monarch [King Abdullah II] warned of on the day he spoke of the danger of the Shiite crescent – will be torn apart.
Today, after the al-Assad regime has been exposed to an unprecedented blow through the Syrian popular uprising, Iran is afraid that its affiliated groups in our region will become surrounded from the Syrian side, after [the fall of] al-Assad. Here the Lebanese situation comes to mind, in the form of Hezbollah, not to mention the painful blow dealt to Tehran in Bahrain, leading Iran to feel that Saudi Arabia is in a state of diplomatic awakening today, in order to be liberated from the surrounding constraints threatening its national security, and to address the Iranian expansion in the region. Therefore, Iran today is trying to maneuver in areas of geographical proximity to Saudi Arabia, searching for suitable locations to foster agents of Tehran.
Hence the importance of Iraq, where all recent indications coming from there point to an increase in Iranian activity in Iraqi areas, not only through al-Maliki’s government, but through Shiite militia loyal to Tehran, in Baghdad and other areas.
As for Yemen, and in the absence of a clear vision about whether President Saleh intends to step down, when, how, and who will replace him, and how the new Yemen will be formed, the political situation there today is an opportunity for Tehran to groom its Houthi allies in Yemen, preparing them for the days to come. Iran seeks to strengthen the position of the Houthis in the forthcoming political process in Yemen, as well as strengthening their military positions on the southern Saudi border.
What Tehran is doing today, in Iraq and Yemen, means that Iran is becoming more and more convinced that Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is coming to an end, and it also means that Iran is preparing to re-engage with Saudi Arabia, by way of Yemen and Iraq, along the lines of a game of chess. Will Tehran succeed in its plan, or will those targeted realize the gravity of the matter? This is the question.