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Why is Iran Involved in Syria: A Look at Multifaceted Reasons

Iran’s role in Syria is intricate. It is shaped by regional power dynamics, historical ties, and strategic goals. Iran’s connection with Syria goes back to alliances formed during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. But the important question is, why is Iran involved in Syria in the 21st century?

Wanting to balance influence against rivals like Saudi Arabia and Israel, Iran, being a Shia Muslim nation, also aims to expand its sway among Shia communities. The Syrian civil war, starting in 2011. It became a chance for Iran to strengthen its position by supporting President Bashar al-Assad, a key ally. 

Iran’s involvement includes military aid, economic support, and backing proxy militias, contributing to a broader regional power struggle involving various international players. In essence, the Syrian conflict serves as a crucial arena where Iran pursues its regional interests, builds alliances, and confronts adversaries in a complex geopolitical landscape. To know more about why Iran is involved in Syria, continue reading ahead. 

Significance of Understanding Iran’s Role in Syria

Understanding Iran’s role in Syria is very important for figuring out the complex geopolitical situation in the Middle East. Iran’s involvement affects how power is distributed in the region and influences the overall picture of conflicts and friendships. 

By supporting Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, Iran not only shows its influence in Syria but also adds to the ongoing competition for power in the region, especially against rivals like Saudi Arabia. The friendship between Iran and Syria shows the complicated mix of religious and political connections, revealing how past relationships and shared interests can impact today’s politics.

Additionally, Iran being part of the Syrian situation has big effects on how countries work together internationally. It has led to a complicated proxy war, bringing in different external groups, each with their own plans and partnerships. 

Understanding what Iran is doing is crucial for leaders worldwide as they try to solve the problems in Syria, find peaceful solutions, and help with the humanitarian issues caused by the ongoing conflict. 

The Syrian problem shows a small version of bigger geopolitical issues, and learning about Iran’s role helps us understand the detailed workings of the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape.

Also Read: What’s the Story Behind Japan-South Korea Relations?

Understanding the Middle East Context: Iran vs Saudi Arabia

The ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been intricate. They have been shaped by historical, religious, and geopolitical factors and have led to continous tension and rivalry. The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I was pivotal, prompting both nations to vie for influence in the resulting power vacuum. 

Saudi Arabia’s establishment in 1932, led by Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, initiated a regional power struggle. 6 years later, the discovery of oil reserves in the country further fueled development and industrialization. However, Saudi Arabia, a country perceived to be the regional head at one time, was threatened by the Iranian Revolution of the 1970s.  

Diverging from Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy, Iran underwent significant changes, with the most impactful being the 1979 Iranian Revolution, establishing an Islamic Republic. This marked a critical point and intensified the Saudi-Iran rivalry. 

The aftermath witnessed proxy conflicts in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen, creating a complex landscape. The ongoing civil wars in the Middle East have further complicated their relations, turning the Saudi-Iranian rivalry into a defining aspect of the region’s geopolitics. 

Also Read: Top 6 Reasons Why Saudi Arabia and Iran Are Bitter Rivals

Historical background leading to Iran’s involvement in Syria

1. Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)

Iran’s involvement in Syria finds its roots in the Iran-Iraq War. This was a conflict that led to a strategic alliance between Iran and Syria. The collaboration, solidified under President Hafez al-Assad, became a cornerstone for future engagements. Iraq invaded Iran after the Iranian revolution because the former feared that Ayatullah Khomeni was trying to export its Iranian revolution to other countries of the area. 

2. Rise of Hezbollah (1980s)

The 1980s witnessed the rise of Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group backed by Iran during the Lebanese Civil War. This development showcased Iran’s capability to project power beyond its borders, creating a proxy force aligned with its anti-Israel stance and Shiite Islamic ideology. 

3. Syrian-Iranian Alliance (1980s)

The strategic partnership between Syria and Iran, forged during the Iran-Iraq War, solidified in the 1980s. Sharing common geopolitical goals and adversaries, both nations laid the groundwork for future collaborations. They also presented a united front against regional challenges.

4. Syrian Civil War and Sectarian Dynamics (2011 Onward)

The outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 and the ensuing Syrian Civil War marked a turning point for Iran’s involvement. Viewing the conflict through a sectarian lens, Iran supported Bashar al-Assad. It provided military assistance, economic support, and mobilized Shiite militias to bolster the Syrian government. This increased Iran’s involvement in Syria. 

5. Regional Power Struggle and Sectarian Dynamics

Iran’s engagement in Syria is intricately linked to the broader power struggle in the Middle East, characterized by Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions. As a predominantly Shiite nation, Iran seeks to protect and expand its influence among Shiite communities. It wants to counter the influence of Sunni-majority states like Saudi Arabia. The Syrian conflict serves as a crucial battleground in this regional struggle for supremacy.

Why Iran is in Involved in Syria?

The Middle East has seen countless rivalries in the past decades, but no matter the dispute, two countries always seem to be involved: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Here are some reasons why Iran is involved in Syria and how Saudi Arabia plays an important part in this involvement. 

1. Strategic Geopolitical Importance

Iran’s engagement in Syria stems from strategic geopolitical considerations. Syria offers Iran a vital foothold in the Levant, facilitating the extension of Tehran’s influence across the region. This strategic depth allows Iran to project power and counterbalance rivals like Saudi Arabia and Israel. This was exemplified during the Iran-Iraq War when the two nations formed a solid strategic alliance.

2. Iran’s Shared Interests with Syria

Iran and Syria share common geopolitical interests, opposing Israel and seeking to counterbalance Sunni-majority states. Both nations historically aligned against common adversaries, fostering solidarity. Iran’s Shiite-majority government finds common cause with Syria’s Alawite leadership, transcending mere diplomatic relations.

3. Support for the Assad Regime

Iran’s backing of the Assad regime is central to its involvement in Syria. The onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 provided Iran an opportunity to support its key ally, Bashar al-Assad. This support encompasses military aid, economic assistance, and diplomatic backing, deeming the survival of the Assad regime vital for Iran’s strategic interests.

4. Military and Financial Assistance

Iran’s role in Syria extends to providing military and financial aid to the Assad government. Tehran deploys military advisors, Revolutionary Guard forces, and supports Shiite militias, crucial for bolstering the Syrian military. Financial assistance is pivotal for the Syrian government to withstand economic challenges amid the ongoing conflict.

5. Iran’s Proxy Warfare

Iran employs proxy warfare, leveraging groups like Hezbollah to advance its interests in Syria. Hezbollah, backed by Iran, plays a significant role in supporting the Assad regime. This proxy strategy allows Iran to exert influence while maintaining plausible deniability in direct military involvement.

6. Sectarian Dynamics

Sectarian considerations significantly influence Iran’s engagement in Syria. As a predominantly Shiite nation, Iran aims to protect and expand its influence among Shiite communities. The Syrian conflict, marked by Sunni-Shiite tensions, provides Iran an opportunity to assert itself as a defender of Shiite interests.

7. Economic and Energy Interests

Beyond geopolitics, Iran’s involvement in Syria is shaped by economic and energy considerations. Securing access to Syria’s energy resources and fostering economic partnerships align with Iran’s broader economic goals. Both nations explore agreements beyond security and military affairs.

Iran and Syria Relations: Impact on International Relations

The alliance between Iran and Syria profoundly affects international relations in the Middle East. This close relationship involves Iran in the complex web of regional conflicts, influencing interactions with other nations and contributing to the broader geopolitical landscape.

The Iran-Syria alliance also holds significant implications for Middle East stability. Iran’s support for the Assad regime contributes to the continuation of the Syrian Civil War and regional instability. The alliance also influences the Sunni-Shiite divide, contributing to sectarian tensions across the region. Understanding the complex interactions between Iran and Syria is crucial for addressing challenges to stability in the Middle East.

Future Outlook

The future course of Iran’s strategy in Syria appears subject to potential shifts. With the Syrian conflict reaching a critical juncture, external influences from various actors are shaping events.

As a key participant, Iran may undergo a recalibration of its approach in response to changing circumstances. Here are some possibilities for Iran’s involvement in Syria. 

  1. Factors like diplomatic initiatives on the international stage, regional power dynamics, and internal shifts within Syria are expected to significantly influence the trajectory of Iran’s strategy.
  2. A critical assessment of the effectiveness of existing policies may lead to adjustments aligning with Iran’s overarching geopolitical objectives.
  3. The dynamic nature of the Syrian conflict and broader regional transformations could induce alterations in Iran’s strategic approach. 
  4. Transformations in international dynamics may prompt Iran to reconsider aspects such as its degree of involvement, the nature of support provided to the Assad regime, or the composition of proxy forces. 
  5. Economic considerations, especially in the context of sanctions, might emerge as influential factors guiding Iran’s decisions regarding Syria. 
  6. Diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the conflict could play a pivotal role in prompting Iran to review its stance and potentially make strategic adjustments.
  7. The fluctuating dynamics involving key players such as Russia, the United States, and regional actors will play a decisive role in shaping Iran’s role. 
  8. Iran’s responsiveness to geopolitical shifts, emerging alliances, and ongoing conflicts will be a critical determinant in shaping its trajectory in Syria and the broader regional context.

Learn More About World Politics With Best Diplomats

To make a positive impact in the world, learning is key. Understanding both current issues and historical events is essential. For instance, to grasp what’s happening in the Middle East today, it is important to look at its history. 

The Best Diplomats platform is special because it not only helps improve leadership and communication skills but also teaches important knowledge for becoming a well-rounded person. This platform lets you connect with people from different parts of the world, broadening your horizons and helping you understand how historical events influence how people behave globally. So reach out and find your pathway to success. 


In summary, Iran’s involvement in Syria is a complex geopolitical situation influenced by historical ties, strategic considerations, and regional power dynamics. The Iran-Iraq War played a pivotal role in establishing a strategic alliance between Iran and Syria, granting Iran a significant presence in the Levant. 

Common geopolitical goals, shared opposition to mutual foes, and the aim to balance against Sunni-majority states have solidified the bond between these nations. Iran’s steadfast backing of the Assad regime, involving military, economic, and diplomatic support, highlights its dedication to safeguarding strategic interests in the region.


Why is Iran involved in Syria?

Iran’s engagement in Syria stems from historical alliances that formed during the Iran-Iraq War. Moreover, both have shared geopolitical interests, and Iran recognizes Syria’s strategic importance for extending Iranian influence in the region.

How does Iran support the Assad regime?

Iran supports the Assad regime through military aid, economic assistance, and diplomatic backing. Currently, Iran has more than 55 groups of armed militia backing up the Syrian government. 

What role does sectarian dynamics play in Iran’s Syria involvement?

Sectarian considerations are significant as Iran, being predominantly Shiite, seeks to protect and expand its influence among Shiite communities. It is also contributing to broader Sunni-Shiite tensions in the region.

How does Iran employ proxy warfare in Syria?

Iran uses proxy warfare by leveraging groups like Hezbollah to advance its interests. Hezbollah, with Iranian backing, plays a crucial role in supporting the Assad regime and conducting military operations, allowing Iran to exert influence indirectly.

What is the future outlook for Iran’s role in Syria?

The future outlook involves potential shifts in Iran’s strategy, influenced by evolving geopolitical dynamics, international diplomacy, regional power struggles, and internal developments within Syria. These factors will likely shape Iran’s approach in the years to come.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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