Rafik Hariri Center Resident Fellow Faysal Itani and former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi write for The World Post on Zabadani’s impact on Iran’s strategy in Syria, mentioning their recently release report on seizing local opportunities in Syria:

Amid promises from Iran of a peace plan for Syria, lets get one thing straight: The Islamic Republic is not negotiating over its key interests in Syria, but advancing them more directly, and possibly with less concern for Bashar al-Assad’s fate. Furthermore, Assad’s woes are not pressuring Iran to negotiate, but embedding it more deeply in Syria. Rather than bring peace, this will probably worsen the war’s sectarian character, strengthen jihadist groups, and make a lasting settlement less likely than ever.

All this is on full display in the city of Zabadani.


This new dynamic threatens the US interests of defeating jihadist groups and facilitating an end to the war. As we argue in a new study for the Atlantic Council, however, local crises also present opportunities to protect US interests and preempt worst-case scenarios, including the ethnic cleansing of Zabadani and the catastrophes that would follow. Zabadani shows that Iran has a bold and coherent new strategy, while regional rivals active in Syria, including Turkey and the Gulf states, lack an effective answer. However the United States chooses to tackle this — training and equipping new forces; working more closely with existing ones to push back on Iran’s new sectarian strategy; directly negotiating in crises such as Zabadani; or helping cobble together a more effective regional coalition to increase negotiating leverage against Iran — its policy should reflect Syria’s new local realities, not a misreading of Iranian intentions.

Read the full article here.

Related Experts: Faysal Itani