While the actual effectiveness of the recently brokered ceasefire deal in war-ravaged Homs between Syrian rebels and Bashar al-Assad regime forces remains unclear, the stipulations of the agreement underscore the high degree in which both Hezbollah and Iran continue collaborating with the Syrian regime.
According to CNN, one of the core requirements on the Assad side was for Syrian rebels to facilitate the release of at least 70 Hezbollah militants, 20 Iranian officers and at least one female “Iranian agent.”
While international inertia essentially guaranteed that both Iran and Hezbollah would increasingly play greater roles in Damascus affairs - both politically and militarily - it is nonetheless noteworthy that over the course of the three year war both Tehran and Hezbollah have gone from adamantly denying any involvement in the Syrian conflict to controlling the basic stipulations of a ceasefire agreement in one of Syria’s most strategic cities; this high level of cooperation will only continue to grow after Assad’s disgraced regime “wins” another term during the sham elections slated to take place on 3 June 2014.
The scathing remarks of the Vice president of the Syrian Coalition Noura al-Ameer on the Homs ceasefire were spot-on; Ameer called the Syrian regime “a puppet manipulated by Iran” and indicated that the deal, “coincides with the farcical presidential elections the Assad regime intends to hold."
It is nonetheless noteworthy that over the course of the three year war both Tehran and Hezbollah have gone from adamantly denying any involvement in the Syrian conflict to controlling the basic stipulations of a ceasefire agreement in one of Syria’s most strategic citiesBrooklyn Middleton
Her point in regard to the timing is especially relevant; similar to Assad agreeing to transfer humanitarian aid to the starving Yarmouk refugee camp during the beginning of the Geneva II talks, the Homs truce is also being announced at a time where Assad is attempting to legitimately score political points. The truce should be welcomed but with skepticism and the total awareness that any agreement is likely to fall apart as soon as it fails to serve a solid political or military purpose for Assad.
Moreover, item six of the ceasefire agreement indicating that rebels evacuating from Homs can “keep their personal weapons for protection in the event of any breach of the pact,” seems like a rather dubious promise; Assad’s forces have consistently failed to fully fulfill previous agreements and it remains unclear why this is likely to be any different.
A major uptick
It cannot be overemphasized that the Homs agreement was implemented amid a major uptick in ongoing chlorine barrel bombing attacks and as reports surface that at least 100 tons of chemical weapons remain inside of Syria. That 100 tons - which Assad declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - notably, did not include chlorine gas. And if the past three years are any indication, it is likely it will take far too long for any comprehensive investigation to be carried out by a third party; thus, there is a high probability that the Syrian military will continue to wage lower level chemical weapon attacks without consequences in the near term.
Meanwhile, only days before the implementation of the ceasefire, the Iranian government apparently had a minor meltdown over comments made by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Hossein Hamedani including: "Today we fight in Syria for interests such as the Islamic Revolution…” and “Iran has formed a second Hezbollah in Syria.”
The rare and boastful confirmation of Iranian military involvement in Syria was quickly erased from the public eye, presumably by Tehran officials irked by the off the cuff remarks. As reported by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Iran’s Fars news agency quickly removed the story that quoted the commander in a seemingly pointless attempt to prevent further confirmation of what the entire world already knows: Iranian and Hezbollah involvement and influence in Syria remain at an all time high.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is currently researching Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups to complete her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.
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