Fall of Ghouta threatens US interests as Iran's power grows
Muhammed Ruzgar writes at The Jerusalem Post that the fall of eastern Ghouta will threaten US interests in Syria as Iranian power grows. He writes that "Iran will be the master of Damascus and that means a constant threat to Israel. The second is that USA will lose Syria to Russia. The impact of the Ghouta operation therefore has implications far beyond Damascus."
He argues that Iran and Russia have different agendas in Damascus. "For Russia, if Ghouta falls, it would mean that the whole of Damascus would be under the regime’s control and that will guarantee for Russia a long-term existence in Syria as well as the safety for its bases in the middle of the country and along the coast. Russia does not intend to keep military forces near Damascus but it needs to save the capital and keep it safe for its influence in the area, which extends from Hama to Homs and then westward to Latakia and Tartus, where it has a naval base. Moscow managed to protect the northern areas of this line of control via the Astana talks and the de-escalation agreements it signed with Turkey and Iran. It also stipulated the deployment of Turkish observation points in Idlib. The second reason behind the Russian support for the operation against Ghouta is that if the whole of Damascus falls under the regime’s control, that will give the regime and Russia a strong leverage in political negotiations. Russia already tried to shift Syrian negotiations from Geneva to Sochi so the Ghouta victory, if it happens, will give momentum to the Russian-hosted Sochi talks and makes Russia the director of the “peace process” in Syria.
Iran’s agenda in Ghouta is to seize the area and become the actual governor of Damascus and take control of the Tehran-Beirut road that runs near Ghouta. This will guarantee Tehran the power to blackmail Israel and the West comfortably and will give it a leverage for its nuclear program negotiations. At the same time it will facilitate Iran’s plan for demographic change in Syria. It has always aimed to turn Damascus into a Shi’ite capital."