Damascus is Iran's main ally in the Middle East, and a supply route to its other ally, the party-cum-militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, passes through Syrian territory. This means Iran, its partners and its geopolitical enemies all have a stake in the conflict:
• Hezbollah troops are fighting for Assad, and Iran was reported to have deployed in Syria members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guards, a special wing of the Iranian military. According to some media reports, 120,000 volunteers are on standby in Iran and ready to join the fray to prevent Assad's ouster.
• The Arab League – most of whose 22 members are Sunnite-dominated states that traditionally oppose Shiite Iran – are believed to be supplying arms to the Syrian opposition, mainly the jihadists. They would not support a plan to sideline the religious radicals in favor of liberals, many of whom are secular-minded, though they may be convinced not to interfere too much, Akhmedov believes.
• Iran's other enemy is the United States, which, along with the EU, has been providing the Syrian rebels with everything but firearms – medicines, communication devices, armored vehicles. Openly arming Assad's enemies is "Plan B" for the West in case the upcoming negotiations fall through, says Akhmedov, but that's hardly conducive to peace talks.