Military and diplomatic experts in the region say Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost his independence from Tehran and became a pawn in a wider sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites that may not end with his stepping down.
After losing thousands of soldiers and militia members from his Alawite sect, and wanting to reserve his Special Forces, Assad is now dependent on Hezbollah and other Shiite Iranian-supported militias to help change the route of conflict.
Alawite army units, armed with missiles and artillery, are playing a secondary role in the war, using these weapons, supported by the air force, to shell rebellious quarters and open passage for local militias, trained by Iran and Hezbollah to fight against armed opposition groups.
According to the new coordination, Hezbollah and Iran have now taking a leading role ahead of Assad's forces, meaning that he and his Alawite authority, which have supported forty years of Assad family rule, have begun to erode.
Unlike Shiites in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, Alawites in Syria tend to secularity and lack the religious enthusiasm of the thousands of Shiite fighters entering Syria.
Security sources in the region estimate the number of Shiite fighters from Lebanon and Iraq fighting in Syria is around 15,000.
Those fighters have helped achieve victory in regaining land that had been controlled by the opposition for two years.
Sources said that after losing broad areas to the opposition, Assad modified his strategy in recent months in order to save the elite units – most of whom are Alawites. These include the Presidential Guard, the Armored Fourth Brigade and the Special Forces. He has begun to depend heavily on Hezbollah, especially in regaining the central part of Homs.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer