But recent statements from other countries, which have aimed to pressure Assad out, or at the least toward reform, Iran's goal is the opposite. "Probably the greatest fear that Iran has at this point is that if Assad does not show some flexibility, his regime will be overthrown," Ottaway says. "So, it's not for reform, but its need for the survival of the regime."
If the regime does fall, Schenker says, that could be the first win geopolitically for the West over Iran since the start of the Arab Spring. When leaders like Hosni Mubarek in Egypt or Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia fell, for example, the United States and the West lost allies. The same could arguably be said for Muammar Qadhafi in Libya when he ultimately retreats. After all, while the West eventually sided with the popular opposition in each of those cases, the ousted leaders had long been stable strategic allies for western nations, particularly against Iran.
But, the same isn't true with Syria. If Assad falls, the loss would certainly be Iran's. [Read: 7 Challenges for a Post Qadhafi Libya.]
"Its close ties to Hezbollah, its close ties to Syria, [and] its close ties to Hamas have essentially given it a Mediterranean presence, which is terribly troubling to many of the Lebanese, as well as to Israel, as well as to Jordan and Egypt," says Geoffrey Kemp, director of regional security programs at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington-based policy research firm. "So, anything that undermines Iran's Mediterranean strategy would be seen as a great plus for the United States and its friends."