Opinion: Khamenei won’t support Assad to the end

By: Meir Javedanfar

For President Bashar al-Assad, the situation in Syria is becoming worse every day. In the middle of the biggest crisis his regime has faced, he has had one friend on whom he could rely: Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei has been Assad’s steadfast friend, providing him with political as well as material support. But as Assad’s position worsens, he will need to rely on Khamenei’s regime more, especially since an increasing number of Assad’s neighbours are turning against him.

First was Turkey, which used to be a close ally. Now, the Turkish government is putting pressure on Assad and warning him to stop killing demonstrators and to implement reforms as soon as possible. And then the Saudis joined in by telling Assad to stop “his killing machine” and withdrawing their ambassador. A number of other Gulf states followed suit.

Assad has good reason to rely on Khamenei. The two regimes have been allies for many years. They have common interests with regard to Israel, Palestine, and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In fact Assad would be right to assume that the Iranian government owes his family. While most of the Middle East backed Iraq in its eight-year war against Iran, it was Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad who stood against the tide.

Despite the closeness between the two leaders and the regimes, Syria’s president should be under no illusion: Ali Khamenei is his friend, but he will not sink with Assad’s ship. The moment the Iranian leader realises that Assad’s situation is not salvageable, he will leave him. This will most probably be done privately. In public, Khamenei and the rest of the Iranian regime will continue their support. They may even offer Bashar refuge in Iran. But, behind the scenes, it would be another story.

The reason is very simple: many have said that the Iranian regime is extremist. This is true. It is extremist about its own wellbeing. To Khamenei there is nothing more important and sacred than this. He is ready to sacrifice anything that would pose a risk to it – including Bashar al-Assad. And one day, if the political and economic costs of Iran’s nuclear programme start threatening the regime’s stability and interests, he would give that up too.

Khamenei will not commit political suicide by staying with Assad until the last moment. Doing so would be very damaging for the regime’s interests. Iran is becoming more isolated every day. It does not need a new enemy in Damascus in the event of Assad’s fall, especially when this could impact on its ability to supply weapons to Hezbollah through Syrian territory (not to mention relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which it conducts through its offices in Damascus). It could also lose access to its economic interests in Syria.

These interests are all important to Khamenei, and he will want to protect them. Therefore Assad should not be surprised if one day he finds that, while Iran supports him publicly, behind the scenes its leaders are anticipating his demise by cavorting with members of the Syrian opposition.

For now, we don’t know if the Iranian government is doing this but the noted change in Iran’s English-language government press – especially since the clashes started in Homs province – may indicate how things inside Iran’s corridors of power are changing.

At an official level, the state-owned PressTV continues to support Assad’s regime. PressTV has been full of reports about demonstrators being backed by foreign powers (Israel, the UK and the US are the usual suspects). However, after the clashes started in Homs, PressTV also started reporting Syrian forces firing on crowds, as well as quoting human rights activists who openly state that the Syrian army has been attacking civilians.

When the protests in Syria first broke out many Persian media outlets in Iran stayed mute on the demonstrations. However, these days they are not only reporting on them but many are openly critical of Assad – much more than the English-language government-owned press.

A good example appeared on 28 July in the Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, a publication which has been close to Khamenei over the years. In an article headed “Assad’s salvation is in reforms and not in the barrel of the guns”, it said:

“A question which Assad and his advisers have to answer is: how long can they continue with armed confrontation and violence? Can they use more violence than Gaddafi and bombard demonstrators like him? Did Gaddafi’s use of violence return the people to their homes?”

The article went on to say that the Syrian army had killed hundreds in the cities of Dera’a and Homs. This is a far cry from the early days of the Syrian uprising when civilian casualties were ignored, while news agencies such as Mehr reported on “millions of demonstrators” supporting Assad.

According to Masoud Adrisi, Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has now changed his position and is asking Assad to respond to his population’s demands. The change in tone of reports from Iran could indicate that Khamenei is following Nasrallah, albeit at a slower pace. Sometimes a teacher can learn from his student.

Guardian

  • Khamenei? That old fool? Once the Syrians are free from Assad, My country is going after him next for his nuclear program.. Hopefully Lebanon will run out the HA interlopers as well. Then MAYBE the Middle East can find some peace…

    • 2160John

      Your country?? I’m guessing you’re Israeli.  Let’s see what they will do. They know the program poses no real threat but they fear it anyway.

      Israeli firms are doing business with Iran and are helping in building the nuclear reactors with Russian companies. Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan says attacking Iran’s nuclear program is the stupidest idea he has ever heard of. I agree.

      Do you know what Iran is capable of? What they lack in technology, they have in faith. These guys won’t mind losing millions just to whop Israel’s behind.

      If you want peace in the Middle East then give the Palestinians their land bank or at least share it. And tell your traitorous president to stop taking orders from Rome.

      • Whatever…Bash Israel elsewhere…Your countries wish they had as much going for them.. Instead they squander the wealth and kill the people…Nice.

      • master09

        Your still with this give back the land ,I told you do some history research first and some political thinking.
        It’s starting to sound boring sorry dude. You have no clue you watch and listen to the media and you think you Know things.  

        • leobetapar

          he know better than you at least

      • leobetapar

        The zioniste state will desapear soon when america will fall over the ridge
        Khamenei is being teach slowly by slowly that he have to matter of spiritual business and in any case in the new shia era the ultramoderate Nadjaf will be the one who will show the way
        Amadinejjab (some people call him Saladin 2) will never ever let down Assad and if there is war it will only allow the syrain to take on lebanon that’s it
        the state of heretique is non valuable in this analyze as soon as usa bankroute they will go back to there country in europe

      • 5thDrawer

        Yes … like North Koreans and North Vietnamese the Iran Power-trippers do not care how many bodies it takes to soak up bullets. It’s a wonderful ‘faith’.

    • 2160John

      Your country?? I’m guessing you’re Israeli.  Let’s see what they will do. They know the program poses no real threat but they fear it anyway.

      Israeli firms are doing business with Iran and are helping in building the nuclear reactors with Russian companies. Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan says attacking Iran’s nuclear program is the stupidest idea he has ever heard of. I agree.

      Do you know what Iran is capable of? What they lack in technology, they have in faith. These guys won’t mind losing millions just to whop Israel’s behind.

      If you want peace in the Middle East then give the Palestinians their land bank or at least share it. And tell your traitorous president to stop taking orders from Rome.

      • leobetapar

        The zioniste state will desapear soon when america will fall over the ridge
        Khamenei is being teach slowly by slowly that he have to matter of spiritual business and in any case in the new shia era the ultramoderate Nadjaf will be the one who will show the way
        Amadinejjab (some people call him Saladin 2) will never ever let down Assad and if there is war it will only allow the syrain to take on lebanon that’s it
        the state of heretique is non valuable in this analyze as soon as usa bankroute they will go back to there country in europe

      • 5thDrawer

        Yes … like North Koreans and North Vietnamese the Iran Power-trippers do not care how many bodies it takes to soak up bullets. It’s a wonderful ‘faith’.

  • Khamenei? That old fool? Once the Syrians are free from Assad, My country is going after him next for his nuclear program.. Hopefully Lebanon will run out the HA interlopers as well. Then MAYBE the Middle East can find some peace…

    • Anonymous

      Your country?? I’m guessing you’re Israeli.  Let’s see what they will do. They know the program poses no real threat but they fear it anyway.

      Israeli firms are doing business with Iran and are helping in building the nuclear reactors with Russian companies. Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan says attacking Iran’s nuclear program is the stupidest idea he has ever heard of. I agree.

      Do you know what Iran is capable of? What they lack in technology, they have in faith. These guys won’t mind losing millions just to whop Israel’s behind.

      If you want peace in the Middle East then give the Palestinians their land bank or at least share it. And tell your traitorous president to stop taking orders from Rome.

      • Whatever…Bash Israel elsewhere…Your countries wish they had as much going for them.. Instead they squander the wealth and kill the people…Nice.

      • Whatever…Bash Israel elsewhere…Your countries wish they had as much going for them.. Instead they squander the wealth and kill the people…Nice.

      • Anonymous

        Your still with this give back the land ,I told you do some history research first and some political thinking.
        It’s starting to sound boring sorry dude. You have no clue you watch and listen to the media and you think you Know things.  

        • Anonymous

          he know better than you at least

      • Anonymous

        The zioniste state will desapear soon when america will fall over the ridge
        Khamenei is being teach slowly by slowly that he have to matter of spiritual business and in any case in the new shia era the ultramoderate Nadjaf will be the one who will show the way
        Amadinejjab (some people call him Saladin 2) will never ever let down Assad and if there is war it will only allow the syrain to take on lebanon that’s it
        the state of heretique is non valuable in this analyze as soon as usa bankroute they will go back to there country in europe

      • Anonymous

        Yes … like North Koreans and North Vietnamese they do not care how many bodies it takes to soak up bullets. It’s a wonderful ‘faith’.

  • C S

    Iran will shut their big mouths, and not raise one hand to help this idiot, because they know when Turkey invades, the US and Saudi’s will be backing up Turkey, and just hoping Iran gets involved, so they can finally have their reason to hit them, and knock them out for good…..this is getting very interesting…in a way, I hope Iran gets bold and gets involved, so we can finally get rid of these bastards, and their boys in Hezbollah, as well….those idiots have been holding my beloved Lebanon hostage, for over 30 years…yalla, ya ibn’il kha’lab Nasrallah…you too, are on the list you bastard…

    • leobetapar

      that so good the turkish speak yesterday for now 8 killed
      i know they are idiot but when they will be not able to put a soldier in Anatolie they will start to thing twice
      Shia are not like sunnis  they act and don’t left their shoes on the battle field

  • C S

    Iran will shut their big mouths, and not raise one hand to help this idiot, because they know when Turkey invades, the US and Saudi’s will be backing up Turkey, and just hoping Iran gets involved, so they can finally have their reason to hit them, and knock them out for good…..this is getting very interesting…in a way, I hope Iran gets bold and gets involved, so we can finally get rid of these bastards, and their boys in Hezbollah, as well….those idiots have been holding my beloved Lebanon hostage, for over 30 years…yalla, ya ibn’il kha’lab Nasrallah…you too, are on the list you bastard…

    • Anonymous

      that so good the turkish speak yesterday for now 8 killed
      i know they are idiot but when they will be not able to put a soldier in Anatolie they will start to thing twice
      Shia are not like sunnis  they act and don’t left their shoes on the battle field

  • guss043

    He won’t stand with him because Iranian  and Shiite in general they have no friends forever, in their religion they should should turn with the strongest or how the win blow 

    • 2160John

      BIG load of BS.

    • leobetapar

      you don’t know shia
      what it’s about the zioniaste and the sunnis not the shia

    • leobetapar

      you don’t know shia
      what it’s about the zioniaste and the sunnis not the shia

  • guss043

    He won’t stand with him because Iranian  and Shiite in general they have no friends forever, in their religion they should should turn with the strongest or how the win blow 

    • Anonymous

      BIG load of BS.

    • Anonymous

      you don’t know shia
      what it’s about the zioniaste and the sunnis not the shia

    • Anonymous

      you don’t know shia
      what it’s about the zioniaste and the sunnis not the shia

    • Anonymous

      you don’t know shia
      what it’s about the zioniaste and the sunnis not the shia

  • 5thDrawer

    In the ‘How many Green Bodies can you stack up?’ contest between these two, Assad may be getting close to the numbers in Iran, and Khamenei won’t like that. Even the age handicap won’t work soon.

  • Anonymous

    In the ‘How many Green Bodies can you stack up?’ contest between these two, Assad may be getting close to the numbers in Iran, and won’t Khamenei like that. Even the age handicap won’t work soon. 

  • Darw101

    Why would Iran continue to support Assad’s Syria? what a silly question to ask…the majority of the syrian protesters and the opposition movement is anti-Iran and anti-hezbollah, the moment that the Assad regime falls, Iran will lose a strategic ally in the region not to mention a crucial gateway to its proxy in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has been working for years to weaken Iran’s influence in the region and views this as an opportunity to hit Iran where it really hurts. Khamenei will continue to support the syrian regime to the bitter end and hope against all odds that it can hang on. 

  • Anonymous

    Why would Iran continue to support Assad’s Syria? what a silly question to ask…the majority of the syrian protesters and the opposition movement is anti-Iran and anti-hezbollah, the moment that the Assad regime falls, Iran will lose a strategic ally in the region not to mention a crucial gateway to its proxy in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has been working for years to weaken Iran’s influence in the region and views this as an opportunity to hit Iran where it really hurts. Khamenei will continue to support the syrian regime to the bitter end and hope against all odds that it can hang on. 

  • Anonymous

    Why would Iran continue to support Assad’s Syria? what a silly question to ask…the majority of the syrian protesters and the opposition movement is anti-Iran and anti-hezbollah, the moment that the Assad regime falls, Iran will lose a strategic ally in the region not to mention a crucial gateway to its proxy in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has been working for years to weaken Iran’s influence in the region and views this as an opportunity to hit Iran where it really hurts. Khamenei will continue to support the syrian regime to the bitter end and hope against all odds that it can hang on. 

  • Anonymous

    Why would Iran continue to support Assad’s Syria? what a silly question to ask…the majority of the syrian protesters and the opposition movement is anti-Iran and anti-hezbollah, the moment that the Assad regime falls, Iran will lose a strategic ally in the region not to mention a crucial gateway to its proxy in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has been working for years to weaken Iran’s influence in the region and views this as an opportunity to hit Iran where it really hurts. Khamenei will continue to support the syrian regime to the bitter end and hope against all odds that it can hang on.