For Iran and Hezbollah, the preservation of Bashar Assad’s regime is of supreme strategic importance. Syria is Iran’s greatest “resistance camp” ally, providing it with a firm foothold in the heart of the Middle East as well as political and military influence. Syria also plays a vital role in Hezbollah’s military buildup, helping it to construct offensive and deterrent capabilities against Israel. For Iran and Hezbollah, the fall of the Syrian regime would be a disaster, it would weaken Iran’s regional position against the United States and Israel and damage Hezbollah’s military capabilities and political influence in Lebanon.
Iran and Hezbollah have not only strategic interests, but also feel religioussectarian solidarity for Syria’s Shi’ite population (an estimated 400,000-450,000 strong) and with the Alawite sect that rules Syria. That solidarity, noticeable in Nasrallah’s recent speeches, has became stronger since the Syrian Shi’ites and their holy sites in Syria became targets for harassment by the rebels (particularly organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda, such as the Al-Nusra Front, which considers Shi’ites as infidels).