Above is a fascinating video presumably filmed to be part of a documentary for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or for the Iranian public. Mackey has run it down and it looks legit. If you are in any doubt that Iran is critical in supporting Assad’s disgusting dictatorship, just watch for a few minutes. What strikes me is the religious nature of their motivation. This is about Shia Islam fighting evil, i.e. Sunni Islam. We keep under-estimating the power of this long, bloody struggle between the two largest traditions in Islam – and therefore the resilience and fanaticism of the participants. Jeff Weintraub noticed this statement by the Iranian commander, which also hit home for me:
“The front we’re fighting at now is not a front where the Syrian army is at war with the people. [….] The current war in Syria is that of Islam versus the nonbelievers. Good versus evil. We are ‘good’ because Iran’s supreme leader is on our side. The front is supported by Hezbollah. The fighters are Iranian, Hezbollah, the Iraqi and Afghan mujahadeen and others. The opponents are Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, funded by the Emirates. Plus America, England, France and Europe.”
Notice that the West and Israel are now identified as Sunni-supporters, even though the US lost lives and trillions and soft and hard power delivering Iraq from the Sunnis to the Shi’a. You can never win with these fanatics. But more fascinatingly, as Jeff also spies, is an insight into the contempt the Shia feel for the Sunnis (which is reciprocated in spades). It’s at 4:19:
After much talk about how they treat their Syrian allies with respect, one Iranian says, while driving through a village:
“When we came, there was no human being. They deserted the village.”
To which another Iranian replies: “There are still no humans now, only Arabs.”
Complicated, isn’t it? And so nasty and ugly and unending. If we can find a way to keep our distance from this lose-lose region so much the better.