The world around us is rapidly changing. It is caused by appearance of the modern technologies and global communication networks, that had made links between people more complicated and complex. The same changes and trends there are in the modern warfare. Tehran is watching new “hybrid war” paradigm and changing its strategy according to new mainstream military ideas. Nowadays Islamic Republic relies on cultural domination but not on the military power only. The main scene to try this new warfare methods is Syria.
Syria plays significant role in the “Shia crescent”, main Iranian regional strategic project. Territory of the crescent will connect Islamic Republic and Lebanon, where Tehran’s main ally “Hezbollah” is located. Establishing of this land corridor will multiply enhance Iranian military and political potential. Syria is the last part of this project.
Obviously that Iran has a significant influence on Syria especially in the Eastern part of the country, in Deir ez-Zor province. It is the main Iranian staging area, where Tehran runs its policy aimed to convert Sunnis Syrians into Shias. The main weapon in this ideological battle is culture and education.
Iran has established 3 cultural centers in Abu Kamal and a center in Mayadin. This offices are responsible for involving Syrian kids and adults in the Iranian cultural environment.
Local civils can particularly learn Iranian language Farsi for free. Everyone from 8 years old can attend this course. The main motivation to join this program is a possibility to get Iranian education subsidy.
Syrians graduated from school, got written references from teachers and passed Farsi exam are able to win the grant and leave destroyed by the war country. It is a very nice opportunity for the most talented and educated young people.
According to the subsidy program, Iranian government pays education and accommodation in Iran. Top students get salary.
The main target of this program is involvement of the most talented and successful Syrians in the Iranian cultural environment. This graduates will lobby Tehran’s interests in Syria someday in the future.
Another significant part of the Iranian culture except Farsi is a Shia version of Islam. Tehran is working hard to spread it in Syria. Islamic Republic’s authorities support local Shia activists and preachers to enhance this process.
Iran is even trying to buy locals to make them join Shia religion. Rumors say, that Shia preachers pay new-converted about 120,000 Syrian pounds (around 230 USD) bonus. That is extremely big money for this area! But frankly speaking this measure is not very effective, because religion issues are very sensitive for Syrians, and it could be a great sin, so this tactic is not very useful.
What will be Iranian role in Syria in the future?
Tehran runs step-by-step policy to enhance its influence in Syria, that is able to offer Iran great opportunities in 10-20 years. But it should be mentioned, that Iranian “Shia crescent” has a lot of enemies like USA, Israel, Emirates, Saudi Arabia and even Russia. All of them are going to provide their own strategies on the Syrian territory to get their own benefit. It means that Tehran will face lots of obstacles on the way in Syria, and there is a high chance to fail this ideological battle.