Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised Syrian President Bahsar al-Assad as a “great fighter” and reiterated Tehran’s support for Syria as a “front line” state against the United States and Israel, the Iranian media reported. “Today, Syria is the front line. Therefore, it is our duty to support the Syrian resistance. Indeed, Mr. Bashar al-Assad emerged as a great fighter and stood up firmly and without hesitation. This is very important for a nation,” the Iranian leader said in a meeting with a delegation of Syrian clerics led by Syrian Minister for Religious Endowments, Abdul Sattar al-Sayyed, in Tehran earlier today. Khamenei also reiterated that Israel will cease to exist within 25 years and predicted that the “resistance front” will liberate Jerusalem from Israel in the near future. He further stressed that if all state and non-state actors within the “resistance front” stay united, the United States and its allies will not be able to harm them. “The survival of the Iranian nation’s revolution demonstrated that what America, Europe and atomic powers wish do not necessarily come true. And if all of us and the elements of resistance front in the region act decisively, the enemies cannot make any mistakes.” The supreme leader said Iran and its allies do not accept any Shiite or Sunni Muslims who are backed by the United States, Britain and their allies.

The Syrian minister delivered Assad’s message to Khamenei and thanked Iran for its support. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has extended the line of resistance against the bullies from Tehran to Damascus and Lebanon. And this has created an important duty for us to act in unison to plan for the liberation of Jerusalem,” he added.

Comment: Khamenei’s remark is yet another indication that the Islamic Republic will not end its military involvement and support for its militia proxies in Syria now that the ISIS is militarily defeated in the country. Quite the contrary, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is entrenching its presence in Syria to project power and threaten the security of Israel. Media reports this week suggest that Iran is building another permanent military base outside Damascus and storing short- and medium-range missiles there – raising the risk of a direct confrontation between Iran and Israel in Syria.

Furthermore, the IRGC commands a vast network of tens of thousands of South Asian and Middle Eastern Shiite militiamen in Syria. Latest statements by leaders of these groups indicate that, after securing the Assad regime’s survival, they now want to focus on Israel. Both Afghan Fatemiyoun Division and Iraqi militia groups fighting in Syria have recently said that they will join the Lebanese Hezbollah in any future wars with Israel.

Khamenei often describes the Islamic Republic as the defender of the oppressed Muslims around the world. However, by supporting and praising Bashar al-Assad, who has mercilessly killed tens of thousands of its citizens over the past seven years, Khamenei proves that the Islamic Republic only pursues its political and ideological goals at the expense of regional stability.