An ‘Iran/Syria Belt & Road’: A Far-Reaching Geopolitical Strategy Unfolds

An ‘Iran/Syria Belt & Road’: A Far-Reaching Geopolitical Strategy Unfolds

     The title above comes from Tyler Druden’s March 26, 2019 article which he posted to his blog/website, ZeroHedge.com. Mr. Druden begins, “As the U.S. tries to consolidate its strategy of weakening and confronting Iran, the contours of an important geopolitical strategy, launched by Syria and Iran are surfacing. On the one hand,” he notes, U.S. strategy “consists of a multi-layered sewing together of a wide ‘deterrence’ that ultimately could result in Israel being pulled into a regional war — were certain military tripwires (such as air attacks on Syria’s strategic defenses) — to be triggered. Or. if the U.S. economic war on Iran crosses certain boundaries (such a blocking Iranian tankers from sailing, or putting a full stranglehold on the Iranian economy).” Mr. Druden goes on to provide more details and granularity regarding U.S. geopolitical strategy to isolate and contain Iran.
     But, as General Peteraus was fond of saying, “the adversary gets a vote.” Raja Abdulrahim and Benoit Faucon write in this morning’s/March 27, 2019 Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “Iran Moves To Firm Its Influence In Syria,” that “in the Islamic State’s former eastern Syrian stronghold, Iran is parlaying its military and economic might into a lasting foothold,” or beachhead.
     “On the heels of an Iranian military intervention that has helped bring Bashar al-Assad to the edge of victory in Syria’s eight-year war, Tehran is moving to cement its long-term influence in Syria, by cultivating goodwill, and winning converts to the Shiite Muslim sect,” the authors note. “To Syrians battered by war, Iran is offering cash, food, Iranian ID cards, public services, and free education.”
     And. Iranian President Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq, is part of a much larger Iranian strategy, which he calls an Iranian “Belt and Road” initiative, a “trading area, stretching from Syria’s Latakia Port on the Mediterranean (likely contracted out to Iranian management), to across the border with Pakistan (and perhaps ultimately India as well),” Mr. Druden wrote.
     Mr. Druden argues that the key point is: “This regional ‘Belt and Road,’ is to be unfolded right into the heart of China’s Belt and Road initiative. Iran has always been envisaged as a — if not ‘the’ — key pivot to China’s B&R effort in the region. As China’s Minister of Commerce, Zhong Shan underlined this week, “Iran is China’s strategic partner in the Middle East; and, China is the biggest trade partner and importer of oil from Iran.” A senior Chinese expert on West Asia has plainly taken note,” he adds. Rouhani’s visit has “long-term, geopolitical implications,” in terms of expansion of Iran’s regional influence,” and presence.
     “The goal is to re-create the Persian Empire,” said Muneer al-Khalaf, a member of the City Council of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate.
       “Iran’s hearts and minds campaign undermines efforts by the U.S., Israel, and the Arab states to roll back Tehran’s influence, and force it out of Syria,” the WSJ reported. “Iran’s campaign has mostly targeted areas that fall along parts of Syria where Tehran has sought to establish military supply lines, the “land bridge,” between Iran and Lebanon,” said Hanin Ghaddar, a fellow at the Washington Institute, a Washington D.C-based think tank.
     None of this is surprising, nor unexpected. Possession is nine-tenths of the law as they say. Once you have established a physical presence, it is much harder to resist further encroachment and influence. To the victor goes the ‘spoil’s.’ Both Moscow and Tehran are moving to solidify and enhance their strategic reach and posture in the region. Their presence in Syria serves as a ‘Lilly-pad,’ thus allowing both their abilities to reach beyond the Fertile Crescent. RCP. fortunascorner.com

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