Iran and Hezbollah have significantly stepped up support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, Western intelligence reports have revealed.
The reports say that Iranian officers and Hezbollah militants have supplied arms to Syrian troops and trained them, to aid Assad in his months-long effort to crack down on anti-regime protests in the country. They also show that Hezbollah fighters were killed in clashes with rebel forces.
Israeli defense officials told Haaretz this week that the potential fall of the Assad regime prompted Iran and Hezbollah to increase their involvement in the Syrian crisis. According to the officials, even though the Iranians believe Assad will survive the uprising, they are still preparing for a scenario whereby he is toppled, in order to maximize their influence on a post-Assad Syria.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, backed by Military Intelligence information, said that Assad is past the point of no return and that his regime, which is enjoying less and less domestic and international legitimacy, is likely to implode. Barak did not specify a time frame. In late 2011, he incorrectly predicted that Assad’s fall would occur “within weeks.”
Analysts in Israel and the rest of the world were unimpressed with Assad’s declaration of victory in the flashpoint city of Homs earlier this week. Many say that Syria is sliding further into anarchy, and that it may meet the criteria of a “failed state” even before the regime collapses. Israeli officials are also skeptical about former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent efforts to put an end to the protracted crisis.
Recent data reveal that more than 10,000 people have been killed in clashes since the unrest began early last year.
For more, go to Haaretz.com