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To Syrians, Deal With Iran Simply Steadies Assad Regime


Syria is one of Iran's staunchest regional allies. Iran has provided key military and financial support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the civil war began four years ago.


Earlier this week, we spoke to Saeed al-Batal. He's an opponent of Syria's government living in a neighborhood on the edge of Damascus that's under siege. In fact, we're not using his full name to protect him. As desperate and hungry as his neighbors are, Saeed says they are watching the Iranian deal.

SAEED AL-BATAL: The majority of the people see that al-Assad is not the president anymore. He's like a toy in the hands of Iran. He's living literally on the funding of Iran. His military weapons are coming from Iran. And it's well known that Iran will do anything to keep al-Assad in the regime because people here understand that behind al-Assad, there's a bigger enemy - because if it's only al-Assad, he could not survive all those casualties.

MONTAGNE: And Saeed is also deeply worried that greater U.S. and Iranian cooperation will put even more focus on the fight against ISIS.

AL-BATAL: So a deal with Iran, that's on the table. People are afraiding (ph) what's - what's under the table, you know, what's going on under the table. And they don't understand how the Western nations see that ISIS is more dangerous than al-Assad. ISIS, after all, if you calculate all of what ISIS have killed, they killed something around, like, 10,000 people. That what kill - Bashar al-Assad - in two months, you know?

GREENE: That's Syrian activist Saeed al-Batal, speaking to us from near Damascus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.