A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei boasted of Iran’s robust influence in the Middle East Saturday, claiming victory in Syria, and said that his country’s first line of defense is now the Lebanese border with Israel.
“Our frontmost line of defense is no more [in southern Iran], rather this line is now in southern Lebanon [on the border] with Israel, as our strategic depth has now stretched to the Mediterranean coasts and just to the north of Israel,” Yahya Rahim Safavi said in a speech to a group of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) veterans, the semi-official Fars news outlet reported Saturday.
Iran has long maintained hegemony in southern Lebanon via its support of the Hezbollah terror group, which is seen as Tehran’s regional proxy.
Safavi said Iran’s strategy of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad against an insurgency had succeeded in thwarting Western powers.
“Certainly, the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the European countries’ strategy to overthrow [Syrian President] Bashar Assad has failed and this failure is a strategic failure for the western, Arab and Zionist front and a great victory for the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Iran is the Assad regime’s staunchest ally and has exhibited the extent of its regional influence in helping to turn the tide of the Syrian civil war in Assad’s favor.
For much of the war Hezbollah declined to get involved, but sent troops last year after reportedly receiving pressure to do so from Iran.
Since Hezbollah became involved, forces loyal to the regime have made major gains in the war, pushing rebels out of key areas along the Lebanese border.
While Iran was shut out of an international peace conference on Syria in January, many analysts have questioned whether a peaceful solution can be attained without the Islamic Republic’s involvement, and numerous countries, including Russia, as well as the UN, have lobbied for its inclusion.