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Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili attends a news conference at the Iranian embassy in Damascus August 7, 2012, after his meeting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)

Iran’s National Security Council Secretary, Saeed Jalili, has pledged Tehran’s continued support to Syria and praised Damascus for being part of what he called an “Axis of Resistance” against foreign opponents. Will this renewed support help bolster the Assad government as it battles the rebels for control of the country? VOA’s Susan Yackee asked Marius Deeb, a professor with the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

‘Reasserting the strong alliance’

Iran has been a close friend of Syria since 1980. There’s nothing new; they’ve always supported each other in their endeavors. The missing link they haven’t mentioned is Hezbollah, which forms the triangle which has been present for almost 30 years. Therefore, you have here a reassertion of the strong alliance between the two countries.”

Regime will not be able to maintain control

“I don’t think there’s a chance for the regime to reassert itself and control the whole country again because its army is not that large and the vast majority of the Syrians are against it. But it has support among certain groups in society, primarily the community of President Bashar al-Assad, the Alawite community, which is probably around 2.5 [million] to three million people. The army is primarily recruited from this community. The regime will not be able to hold Damascus and Aleppo in the long run.”

‘You cannot completely eliminate the opposition’

“You cannot completely eliminate the opposition because they are numerous, lightly armed, it’s true, but there are a lot of them. They control the regions outside the city, outside Aleppo in particular – less so in the case of Damascus, but they do exist outside Damascus. It’s a matter of conquering a city, and getting rid of a city is easy, but conquering the countryside around the cities, with all the villages and small towns, is very difficult. The regime has no chance of reasserting itself as it was from 1972 to 2011, when it was a police state over Syria.”

International military intervention could come from two places

“There is a possibility of intervention, and intervention could happen from two places – from the Turkish border, which is a very long border, and from the Jordanian border. Both countries, Turkey and Jordan, are close to the West. Turkey is part of NATO, and Jordan has been pro-Western for a long time.”

Listen to more of Marius Deeb’s insights on the future of control in Syria (4:15):

Susan Yackee

Susan Yackee is anchor of VOA's International Edition radio show. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.

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