Except for local outbreaks, Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have overpowered the nationwide uprising against his regime, thereby demonstrating that his intelligence and security forces are the best and most fearsome in the Arab world. His survival unscratched will have also left the radical bloc of Tehran, Damascus, Hizballah and Hamas alive and kicking – against all predictions.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources are certain that the Syrian crisis would have had a completely different ending were it not for massive and expert Iranian and Hizballah assistance,.
Iran tipped the scales against the protesters with an airlift of anti-riot equipment, 250 top Revolutionary Guards and police experts in riot control, who orchestrated the brutal Syrian crackdown, and cyber war specialists who tracked opposition leaders and activities through Internet activity and cell phones.
Another piece of luck which played into Assad's hands was the concatenation of the outbreaks against his regime and the entry of Saudi-led GCC troops into Bahrain, which prompted Tehran to order Al Qods Brigades units to whisk the 1,000-strong Hizballah contingent, the backbone of the Shiite uprising in Bahrain, out of the island-kingdom at top speed before the Saudis nabbed them.
Those Hizballah combatants, trained to crush street uprisings in urban centers, were airlifted to Iran and Lebanon via Damascus airport. Their leader Hassan Nasrallah made these troops instantly available to Bashar Assad in the first week of the revolt against him.
For the next 10 weeks, Hizballah's fighting force spearheaded the Syrian onslaught on the demonstrations.
A formidable Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah fighting collaboration
It was the combination of Iranian crowd control expertise, Hizballah's aggressive fighters and Assad's ruthlessness in ordering his army to shoot demonstrators where they stood, which eventually broke the back of the Syrian uprising.
Washington and Riyadh counted on the Syrian-Iranian-Hizballlah intelligence and military pact being badly blooded by the fierce showdown with Syrian protesters. Instead, it emerged stronger than ever, having proved its mettle and efficacy in action. The collaboration was honed by its Syrian experience into a pro-Shiite fighting force that will take the Saudi-sponsored multinational Muslim rapid deployment force in the making (see first item in this issue) some time to match.
The Syrian dictator, while going through the motions of appeasing the opposition, feels strong enough to punish those who backed it, starting with Saudi Arabia.
He is capable of organizing Shiite covert networks in Iraq for stirring up trouble in the oil-rich Shiite regions of eastern Saudi Arabia and staging terrorist attacks against the crown, to avenge himself for the fighters, arms and funds which Saudi intelligence pumped to the Syrian protesters from Iraq.
Last Tuesday, Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moalem warned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that if he failed to stop Saudi smuggling operations, the Syrian army would go into Iraq and take care of them.
Also in Assad's sights is his former friend the Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who switched sides and the content of the broadcasts put out by his Al Jazeera TV network from pro-Assad to pro-Syrian opposition.
Jordan too is unlikely to get off unscathed for hosting the Saudi intelligence headquarters which fueled the uprising in the southern Syrian province of Horan and its capital, Daraa.
Turkish premier and Hamas leader to be let off lightly
Even Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will come in for slaps on the wrist for berating Assad's savagery. But the punishment won't go too far. The Syrian ruler knows that Ankara may have misjudged the true state of affairs during the 10 weeks of clashes because he himself booted Turkish MIT intelligence service agents out on 12 hours notice after his Iranian advisers warned him that Erdogan was planning to give him a poke in the eye.
This was confirmed when Syrian opposition leaders-in-exile were allowed by the Turkish prime minister to meet in Antalya from May 31 to June 2.
That meeting was called to approve the basic tenets for a new regime to have taken power in Damascus after Assad's fall.
The meeting was originally planned to take place in Alexandretta, an abiding sore between Syria and Turkey ever since 1939 when the French mandate handed the once Syrian territory over to Turkey.
The dispute was never resolved, only lightly papered over by the recent rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.
Staging a Syrian opposition event in Alexandretta would indeed have been a poke in the eye for the Syrian ruler and Assad is not expected to let that intention go unnoticed.
And, lastly, Hamas' Khaled Meshaal, whose headquarters enjoyed Syrian hospitality for decades, will pay for planning to move out of Damascus to Cairo in expectation of Assad's ouster.
If Meshaal escapes his just reward it will only be because in his case the Syrian and Egyptian governments agreed on the move and Assad would not want to jeopardize the ties unfolding between Damascus and Cairo and Cairo and Tehran.