Since 2011, the Islamic Republic has poured blood and treasure into Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad, in the process prolonging the country’s civil war, increasing the bloodshed, and contributing to regional instability. What motivates Tehran’s commitment to this unpopular ruler? Karim Sadjapour argues that it is the desire to use Syria as a launching pad for attacks on Israel:
Distilled to its essence, Tehran’s steadfast support for Assad is not driven by the geopolitical or financial interests of the Iranian nation . . . but by a visceral and seemingly inextinguishable hatred for the state of Israel. As senior Iranian officials like Ali Akbar Velayati, a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have [repeatedly] said, “The chain of Resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hizballah, the new Iraqi government, and Hamas passes through the Syrian highway.” . . . So long as the seventy-eight-year-old Khamenei remains in power, this hatred will justify Tehran’s continued commitment . . . to supporting Assad’s use of all means necessary—including chemical weapons—to preserve his rule.
Though Israel has virtually no direct impact on the daily lives of Iranians, opposition to the Jewish state has been the most enduring pillar of Iranian revolutionary ideology. Whether Khamenei is giving a speech about agriculture or education, he invariably returns to the evils of Zionism. . . .
The number of Syrian deaths since 2011 (an estimated 500,000, though the UN has stopped counting) is more than five times greater than the approximately 90,000 Arabs (roughly 20-30 percent of them Palestinian) killed in the last 70 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict. . . . Indeed since 2011 far more Palestinians have been killed by Assad (nearly 3,700) than by Israel, including by chemical weapons. . . .
Amidst all the carnage and destruction in Syria, a [single] question could be posed to Khamenei: has anything that Iran has done in Syria, or elsewhere for that matter, advanced its goal of destroying Israel and “liberating” Palestine?