In keeping with the regional cold war that has been simmering here for years, Iran and the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon have fully supported their Syrian ally, while Sunni states friendly to the US, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have called for arming anti-Assad rebels.
But last month, a central member of the resistance axis – the Palestinian militant group Hamas – abruptly abandoned its longtime patron Syria and its leaders decamped to Egypt and Qatar.
Moreover, Syria's role in the resistance alliance is only as strong as Assad's rule. If he were forced out, Hezbollah's ready access to Iranian-supplied weapons could be severely reduced and therefore Iran's ability to maintain Hezbollah's potency as a proxy against Israel could diminish.
“This Syria-Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas ‘axis of resistance’ has started to fray, with Hamas essentially pulling out, and the Syrians being challenged at home, so this whole equation has to be reconsidered,” says Rami Khouri, a Mideast analyst at the American University of Beirut. “If the Syrian regime were to be changed, both Hezbollah and Iran would be dealt a blow.”