Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria

Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria

At a time of economic hardship, Tehran has provided billions of dollars to help Assad crush Islamist rebels. The question is why.

The Atlantic, 2018

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  • Controversial
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Iran has played a pivotal role in helping Bashar al-Assad’s regime regain the upper hand in Syria’s civil war. At first glance, the alliance between a revolutionary Shia theocracy and a staunch champion of secular Arab nationalism seems baffling. Some analysts have emphasized the common strategic interests the two countries share. For Iranian-American foreign policy analyst Karim Sadjadpour, however, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision to back Syria’s brutal dictator stems from a much more elemental place: his deep-seated hatred of the state of Israel. getAbstract recommends this article to readers with an interest in Middle East politics.


Iran has served as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s main financial and military supporter since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Iran has spent billions of dollars to shore up the Syrian regime, despite widespread popular discontent over worsening economic conditions at home. While the Islamic theocracy’s backing of a secular regime that condones rape as a weapon of war seems paradoxical, the root of Iran’s unwavering solidarity with Assad’s regime is clear: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s deep-seated hatred of Israel. Indeed, calls for Israel’s annihilation have occupied...

About the Author

Karim Sadjadpour is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

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