The Syrian regime's expulsion of the top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander in Syria, Mostafa Javad-Ghaffari, is a severe setback to the Iranian regime and its agenda, analysts said.
The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad expelled Javad-Ghaffari in late October.
Javad-Ghaffari, the architect of the Iranian plan in Syria who earned the moniker "the Butcher of Aleppo" for his brutality during the battle in that city, was in charge of the IRGC's proxies in Syria.
These militias, which operate outside the control of the Syrian regime, have been accused of using excessive force during operations carried out under Javad-Ghaffari's command.
Syrian resentment of the IRGC's leaders and policies had been on the rise for some time, and reached a peak last year with the decision to expel Javad-Ghaffari, Syrian lawyer Bashir al-Bassam told Al-Mashareq.
"Javad-Ghaffari took advantage of his considerable influence to consolidate the IRGC's control over many Syrian regions," he said, noting that this was done "under the pretext of protecting shrines, airports and military sites".
The IRGC and its affiliates have gradually established a presence in Aleppo, the eastern desert (Badiya) and parts of Deir Ezzor, as well as Damascus and its hinterland, sidelining the Syrian regime in the process.
Yet Javad-Ghaffari was not satisfied with all the control he had, al-Bassam said.
He had become heavily embroiled in corruption, he said, and was involved in smuggling goods from Iran to Syria, a lucrative enterprise which was damaging to the Syrian economy, he said.
'Public, humiliating expulsion'
Javad-Ghaffari's unpopularity was an open secret, al-Bassam said.
And his role in Syria "was essential to implementing the IRGC's plan in Syria", Syrian journalist Mohammed al-Abdullah told Al-Mashareq.
"Syria was and continues to be a strategic fulcrum for establishing a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut," he said.
"Any disruption to the relationship with Syria would undermine this plan."
Observers say Javad-Ghaffari was the driving force behind demographic changes in several regions of Syria, which the IRGC pursued with the help of its affiliates.
These include Lebanese Hizbullah, Iraq's Harakat al-Nujaba, and the Fatemiyoun Division and Zainabiyoun Brigade, comprised of Afghan and Pakistani fighters.
The IRGC-QF also established dozens of Syrian militias, which it used to further its own agenda in Syria and effect demographic change, he said.
Expelling Javad-Ghaffari in such a public and humiliating manner "is in and of itself a condemnation of the Iranian role in Syria by the Syrian regime", al-Abdullah said.
The Syrian regime "is seemingly fed up with Iran's exploitation of it, and decided to oust Javad-Ghaffari despite the power and influence he enjoys", he added.
Loss of popular support in Iran
Javad-Ghaffari's behaviour in Syria "is an example of how the IRGC and its leaders behave in Iran and the countries where they have militias", said Iranian affairs researcher Sheyar Turko, who specialises in IRGC affairs.
"Draining the natural resources of people, from the Iranian public to the Yemenis, Lebanese, Syrians and Iraqis, is clearly done for the benefit of the IRGC and its leaders," he said.
Despite the dire state of the Iranian economy, which is in freefall, and the resulting difficulties suffered by the Iranian people, the IRGC's budget has increased drastically, Turko said.
This has taken money directly out of the pockets of the Iranian people, he said, leaving them to face hardship in their lives as if they have no right to enjoy or benefit from the natural riches of their country.
The recent torching of statues of slain IRGC-QF commander Qassem Soleimani in Shahr-e Kord is a sign the Iranian people are angered by this state of affairs.
It is evidence of "the Iranian people's rejection of the policy of starvation that was imposed on them in favour of the IRGC's foreign plans that are being pursued under the pretext of exporting the revolution", he said.