It was reported today that a bus load of Iranians were abducted by gunmen while on a pilgrimage in Syria. The total number of those kidnapped is believed to be 48.
The recent kidnapping is likely to reduce the number of Iranians who visit Syria on pilgrimage. This is bound to hit Assad’s pocket hard as they are probably the only tourists visiting his country these days.
What should particularly concern the Iranian government is that this kidnapping could cause panic among thousands of Iranians living in Syria. This could increase the number of Iranians living in Syria who wish to leave. It should be noted that there were already reports in the Iranian press before today’s incident that some Iranian families want to leave Syria.
This is bound to put the government of supreme leader Khamenei in a serious bind.
On the one hand if he doesn’t evacuate Iranian citizens, it could create infighting within his regime as those who live in Damascus most probably have close ties to the Iranian government.
On the other hand if he does evacuate Iranians, this could be seen as a sign of betrayal and loss of confidence in the Assad government by his Syrian allies.
When it comes to Syria, time is not on Khamenei’s side.