Iran has good reason to avoid drawing attention to its activities in Syria. The regime has long downplayed its role in that conflict. In recent days, American analysts have largely focused on whether Iran’s promised revenge for Fakhrizadeh’s killing could derail U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s hopes of reviving the Iran nuclear deal. But Tehran’s engagement with Damascus remains a danger to regional stability. Tensions between Iran and Israel over Syria are escalating rapidly and may force the Biden administration to act there soon after taking office.
Tehran sees Syria as a critical piece of its “axis of resistance” and an important route for the transfer of arms and other supplies to Lebanese Hezbollah. A post-Assad government might not favor Iran’s influence and might even be more Sunni in composition, therefore aligning with Iran’s regional rivals, such as Saudi Arabia. With few allies in the region, Iran sees a friendly government in Syria as vital to its survival and power.