(JNS.org) Amid the Syrian civil war, Iran and Hezbollah are building a network of terror militias in Syria in the event of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s downfall, according to U.S. and Arab officials, the Washington Post reported.
Current reports indicate upwards of 50,000 militiamen are fighting in Syria on Assad’s behalf with Iran’s backing. Officials, however, believe their long-term goal is to maintain operatives in Syria if the country collapses.
“One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses,” an Arab official told the Washington Post.
Syria remains a deeply fractured country. The government is controlled by Assad’s minority Alawite clan—an offshoot of Shi’a Islam—and receives support from its Shi’a brethren, Iran and Hezbollah. Meanwhile, the rebellion has largely been driven by Syria’s Sunni majority with support from Sunni Arab oil giants like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But extremist Sunni groups like al-Qaeda have increasingly joined the rebellion as well. Other minorities like the Kurds, Christians and Druze have been caught in the crossfire.
“Syria is basically disintegrating as a nation, similar to how Lebanon disintegrated in the ’70s to ethnic components, and as Iraq did,” said Paul Salem, director of the Middle East Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, according to the Washington Post.