Iran stands to gain more than $US100 billion from a comprehensive nuclear deal with world powers, a chunk of which will likely go towards continued support of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The prospect of an economically empowered Iran further bolstering the Assad regime even further is particularly daunting given the regime’s use of barrel bombs — steel barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel — against its own citizens.
The attacks are a “marvellous recruiting tools” for ISIS, Frederic Hof, a former State Department policy planner on Syria under the current White House who is now a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, told the Daily Beast.
As Iran’s primary Arab ally in the region, Syria is critical to Iran retaining its geopolitical influence in the region, which is why Tehran spends as much as $US35 billion per year propping up the Assad regime while also deploying thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards soldiers and pro-Assad Shiite militiamen to Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
The Syrian dictator, for his part, regularly targets neighbourhoods where civilians are known to congregate, such as hospitals, schools, and playgrounds.
As a result, “everyday decisions — whether to go visit a neighbour, to send your child to school, to step out to buy bread — have become, potentially, decisions about life and death,” Hof wrote last month in an analysis of the war’s casualties.
“Barrel bombs are not hi-tech or even sophisticated weapons that are sold by modern defence companies,” Riad Kahwaji, CEO of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told Al Jazeera in February. “They are primitive bombs built by bloody dictatorships with the objective of terrorizing people.”
The bombs cost between $US200-$US300 to build and are extremely imprecise, but their power is increasing: “What’s changed with the recent improvements to the DIY barrel bombs is they have become far more reliable,” Eliot Higgins, a blogger who has covered the Syrian civil war extensively, explained to Newsweek. “They are much larger, with an estimated weight of up to 2,000 pounds, and has a DIY impact fuse, so it’s more reliable.”
Furthermore, Assad’s troops are dropping chlorine bombs on civilians. The Obama administration knows all about this too, and “has repeatedly warned that those responsible for chlorine bomb attacks will be held accountable”
Significantly, the administration knows who is bankrolling the savagery.
“The president and his people are intellectually attuned to the fact that Tehran is the principal outside facilitator of mass murder in Syria,” Hof told Business Insider last month.
Meanwhile, the regime’s violence has allowed ISIS to market itself as the only group that can protect Syrians from the government’s brutality.
The president and his advisors “are intellectually accepting of the proposition that the Assad regime’s mass murder is a recruiting tool for [ISIS],” Hof noted. “People in the administration are not lacking in intelligence, they can connect the dots on these things.”
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