By Karina Kainth
A dramatic change in Iran’s rhetoric
towards the protests in Syria beginning
in early September has sparked international
While Ahmedinejad was initially quoted as
blaming the protests on a western conspiracy, Iran
is now joining other nations in calling
for Assad to put a stop to his violent
oppression of the revolution.
Many attribute this change to
strategic concerns. The beginning
stages of the Arab Spring worked in
Iran’s favor, especially when Hosni
Mubarak of Egypt was ousted from
power. However, when protests
reached Syria, Iran found itself in danger
of losing a key strategic partner in
civil strife. For this reason, many analysts
have stated that Iran has been
providing Syria with monetary assistance
in order to help quell the
protests. The European Union has accused
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of
providing technological assistance to
the Assad regime as well.
Purported reasons for Iran’s change
in stance include its desire, as the anti-
Assad movement increases in strength
and atrocities committed against Syria’s
population become increasingly condemned
by the international community,
to bolster Assad’s reputation.
Some say that Iran has been calling
for Assad to adopt political reforms in
an effort to help keep him in power
and avoiding upsetting the delicate balance
of power in the region.
“Assad’s heroic image of resistance
is being watered down,” said Vasi Nasr,
a professor at Tufts University, told
The New York Times. “That’s the problem
with Iran…[it is] trying to have
[its] cake and eat it too.”
Thus, many analysts claim that
Iran’s switch is less of an ideological
shift and more of a way in which to
maintain its interests in the region.
Another perspective on the policy
shift includes considerations of political
changes and domestic values in
“Assad oppressed a little too
much,” said Dr. Murat Menguc, associate
professor in the Department of
History, in reference to the Syrian
administration’s killings of protesters
during Ramadan, clearly a religious taboo.
This, according to Menguc, may have
contributed partially to Iran’s change in
rhetoric towards Assad’s actions.
Moreover, Menguc sees new political
developments in Iran as a reflection
of Iran’s changing stance toward
“Iran has launched a campaign
against Ahmadinejad,” said Menguc.
If Assad is ousted, there is the
question of what Iran will do to maintain
its strategic interests in the region.
Menguc does not believe Iranian intervention
to be a probable outcome.
“Iran plays its cards very close to its
chest,” he said. “Note that Iran has
been very quiet about Palestine’s U.N.
There has not been considerable
evidence of intervention in the past,
and according to Menguc, Iran will not
try to fill any power vacuum that may
result in the aftermath of the protests.
Some analysts state that Iran’s unease
with the protests has been
overemphasized and that a government
without Assad as leader will not
necessarily bring detrimental consequences
“A post-Assad government, if it is
even minimally representative of its
people, is going to pursue an independent
foreign policy. It will not be
enamored of the prospect of strategic
cooperation with the United States,
and may be less inclined than the
Assad regime (under both Bashar and
his father, the late Hafiz al-Assad) to
keep Syria’s southern border with Israel
‘stable.’ Tehran can work with
that,” said Flynt Leverett, senior research
fellow at the New America
Foundation, and Hillary Mann Leverett,
CEO of the political risk consultancy
Strategic Energy and Global
Analysis, according to CNN.