The Tehran-Damascus Axis...
Iran will do anything to ensure the Syrian regime doesn't topple...
Under Mr. Ahmadinejad, Iran has expanded its presence in Syria significantly. At least 14 Iranian "Islamic Cultural Centres" have opened across Syria, and hundreds of mullah missionaries have been sent to introduce Iranian-style Shiism to Syrians. Similar tactics in Lebanon have succeeded in "Iranizing" a large chunk of the Lebanese Shiite community.
The Assad regime has a larger strategic importance for the Islamic Republic. "We want to be present in the Mediterranean," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech last month in Tehran, marking the arrival in the Syrian port of Latakia of a flotilla of Iranian warships. This was the first time since 1975 that Iranian warships had appeared in the Mediterranean.
Indeed, Iran could build a presence in the Mediterranean through Syria and Lebanon. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has already developed mooring facilities in the Syrian port as a prelude to what may be a full-scale air and naval base.
Mr. Ahmadinejad, who believes that the United States is in historic retreat, sees Iran as the successor to the defunct Soviet Union as the principal global challenger to what he says is "a world system, imposed by Infidel powers." The loss of Syria would puncture many of Mr. Ahmadinejad's aspirations.
Over the years, it is possible that Iran has built a network of contact and sympathy within the Syrian military and security services. It may now be using that network to encourage hardliners within the beleaguered Assad regime to fight on.
From the start, Tehran media have labelled the Syrian uprising "a Zionist plot," the term they used to describe the pro-democracy movement in Iran itself. In 2009, the mullahs claimed that those killed in the streets of Tehran and Tabriz were not peaceful demonstrators but "Zionist and Infidel" agents who deserved to die. The Assad clan is using the same vicious vocabulary against freedom lovers in Syria as snipers kill them in the streets of Damascus, Deraa and Douma.