Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria in event that Assad falls, officials say
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
Feb 10, 2013
Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.
The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials believe Iran’s long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in place in the event that Syria fractures into separate ethnic and sectarian enclaves.
A senior Obama administration official sited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. “It’s a big operation,” the official said. “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.”
Iran’s strategy, a senior Arab official agreed, has two tracks. “One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses.”