Iran is preparing to preserve its influence in Syria in the event that its ally President Bashar Assad should be removed from power by building a network of militias in the country along with Hezbollah, The Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing US and Middle East officials.

According to the officials, the militias are currently fighting alongside Assad's forces to keep the embattled leader in power. They believe, however, that the militias are actually in place to serve Tehran's long-term goal of maintaining operatives in the country to act in Iran's interest in Syria if the opposition forces should succeed in unseating Assad.

The Post quoted a senior Obama administration official as saying that Iran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on,” the official stated.

The Post quoted a senior Arab official as saying that Iran was putting the militiamen in place in order to "support Assad to the hilt," and "to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses.”

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