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Wednesday, August 10, 2005 

Iran: America's latest piece of meat

Ahmedinjad was the best thing to happen to Syria in the last two years.

Syria's problems started during the Iraq war when Bashar carelessly wished for the defeat of the invading forces. Since then, Syria has been added to Washington's hit list.

Iran was no longer the issue (remember the axis of evil? Iran, Iraq and North Korea).

It always struck me as strange that North Korea would threaten to build up its arsenal of nuclear weapons, and even boast about using them. Iran would continue to use nuclear fuel and act in a hostile way towards the West. But Syria - which has shown every possible sign of placating America's wishes (pulling out of Lebanon, recognising the puppet Iraqi regime, and even offering peace talks to Ariel Sharon) was still America's Most Wanted.

But now with extremist Ahmedinjad pushing Iran to the brink, Washington's eyes have finally turned away from Syria to the next piece of meat. Donald Rumsfeld accused Iran of smuggling weapons into Iraq, and there is a looming crisis over Iran's use of nuclear fuels.

The worst thing Syria could do is associate itself with Iran. But oops, where did Bashar visit yesterday? Tehran.

Syria was on the Neocons' hit list LONG before Bashar's statements, and still is on the list. Ever heard of "Clean Break"? Read up and be repulsed:

Syria is in trouble with the Us because of it,s arabic nationalism and it,s resistant to unjust peace with ISrael not for anything Syria did to the US actualy the US might have second thoughts about attacking syria if Iran will stand with Syria and make the life of the american terrible in Iraq.

once again you seemed shocked the bashar continues and WILL continue to mis-read world events that MAY help him. by siding with Iran, he is once again placing himself and the country of Syria in harm's way....because he cannot read the "tea leaves" of world events.

Once again we are witnessing the continued reason that Iran/Syria and North Korea will continue to be "pariahs" on the world scene, and be treated as hostile countries in the both the Un/Europe and the US.

Rock on Bashar, keep truckin' up to Tehran to kiss some Mullah ass, and put all your chips with your buddies in black robes.

Another brillant move by a man who inherited Daddy's fortune, but has more business in London tending to the elderely, than he does in the seat of power in Damascus, as a pure amateur with no substance, style of plan.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
Syria's empty Iranian gambit

By Michael Young
Daily Star staff

In search of increasingly rare dinner partners, Syrian President Bashar Assad flew to Iran earlier this week to meet with officials, including the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the two-day visit, Assad remarked that cooperation between Syria, Iran and Iraq would "be a barrier in the way of occupiers in the region." For a moment, he must have fancied himself a geopolitical mover and shaker, like his father in the 1980s, when Hafez Assad used the Iranian connection to oppose Iraq and, paradoxically, make himself more indispensable to the Arab states then siding with Saddam Hussein.

If so, someone should tell Bashar that times have changed. While the Iranians were happy to receive the Syrian president, the supreme guide, Ali Khamenei, issued a statement - that the visit could "reinforce the pillars on which bilateral relations rest" - whose vacuity hinted at Iranian reserve. The fact is that Iranian and Syrian strategic interests differ, despite a joint mistrust of the United States, support for Hizbullah, and opposition to a Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

For one thing, Syria is an albatross around the neck of anyone touching it, and Iran, navigating through a political minefield over its nuclear ambitions, sees little long-term advantage in what Assad offers - indeed probably sees little long term in Assad himself. Syria is the one with the hat in hand, while Iran has the luxury of taking what it can from Damascus while discarding the inconvenient. Theirs is no alliance; only intermittent flashes of parallel interests.

That is probably why weeks ago some Syrian officials, according to reports, cautioned against Assad's congratulating Ahmadinejad in person. It is difficult to see what Syria gains from a high-profile relationship: it has little leverage to squeeze much out of Iran; it will be further targeted by the Bush administration as a member, albeit a nonvoting one, of the "axis of evil"; and the Europeans, who hold Syria's economic lifeline, will look more sourly on Assad's action after Iran's rejection of the European offer on nuclear power - with the possibility of United Nations sanctions against Iran hovering in the background.

The Syrians must also know by now that their behavior in Iraq doesn't square with Iran's ultimate aims there. Yes, allowing foreign suicide bombers into the country to slaughter mainly Shiite civilians does discredit the American rehabilitation project, something the Iranian regime can momentarily live with. But otherwise, the Syrian plan is no plan at all: it's an effort to augment the carnage in Iraq so that the U.S. will feel obligated to bargain with Assad. If this contributes to a civil war, as well it may, then Syria might not only be swallowed up by the aftermath, but Iran would remain indifferent to this, since it hasn't invested heavily in Iraq's Shiites to see them inherit a Hobbesian wasteland.

Conversely, the Syrians cannot be happy with helping bring about an Iraq where Shiites are triumphant: not only would this erode Assad's credibility at home; it would further damage relations with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and even Egypt. In striving to play sectarian politics in Iraq, all the while trying to sell himself to the Americans as an axial regional player, Assad risks tripping over his own shoelaces. He is also making it increasingly likely that his maneuvering will provoke a military confrontation between Syria and American forces in Iraq - a likelihood only increased if the Americans become more frustrated there.

Iran and Syria sing from the same songbook on Hizbullah, but their reasons are strikingly different. Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah recently returned from Tehran with his suitcase full of duty-free confidence, prompting the head of the party's parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, to reject any handover of security in the Southern border area to the Lebanese Army. Hizbullah is being encouraged by Iran and Syria to reinforce their state within a state on security matters. This is shortsighted because it will turn Lebanon's non-Shiite communities against Hizbullah. It also reverses efforts under Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, to supplant Iran's Hizbullah-centric policy with one of government-to-government relations between Tehran and Beirut.

However, the Iranians are wagering that their influence over Hizbullah will earn them an invitation to negotiate the party's disarmament, enhancing Iran's hand when it comes to bargaining over the nuclear issue, and over economic concessions from the Europeans. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Hizbullah can be disarmed without some sort of regional and international agreement, involving Iran, but also the UN, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and France.

Even as the Iranians hold up the Hizbullah card to sell themselves as necessary interlocutors in shaping the party's future, Assad seems to have forgotten that that was his father's strategy during the 1990s. The late Hafez Assad always sought to cash in politically on disarming the party in the context of a regional peace settlement. His hope was that the payback would be American acquiescence in sustained Syrian influence in a post-settlement Lebanon. The Iranians have purloined the idea, but instead of considering how this will marginalize Syria, Assad continues to advance Iranian designs by demolishing the credibility of those Lebanese who would counterbalance such a project.

Part smoke and mirrors, part nostalgia, part farce, the Syrian-Iranian axis tells us much about Syrian foolhardiness. Iran has little to lose from being in the same frying pan as Assad, because, unlike him, it can jump out at any time. It needs normalcy, particularly economic normalcy, so that Ahmadinejad can assuage his poor electorate, and the Iranians know that Syria is mostly dead weight in that respect. When will Assad become wise to what he is facing?

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Interesting comments. You imply that the US is hostile toward Syria, and has been for a long time. I think you are correct, but the reasons you give are only partially right. Here is why I think they are hostile, and it is not a simple explanation, but a little confusing.

First, Syria threatens Israel and has for a longtime. Along with Iran, Syria has supported the Israeli militant opposition - Hezbolla.

It did not help that the US found what they thought was evidence that Syria was helping insurgents get across Syria and into Iraq. They asked Basher to control his border, but the continued infiltration convinced the Administration that Syria was not being helpful.

Next, Syria invaded Lebanon, and this threatened to destabilize the whole region. US has some strange concepts in their national psyche. For example, the US has a strong belief in democracy as this form of government, in its true form, grants freedom to its citizens and protects their rights. The US wants to spread democracy just as Iran would like to spread the Illumination of countries. That desire is enough to make the US upset at the continued occupation of Lebanon. A recent example of this was when Rice said the US would guarantee the sovereignty of Lebanon. Don't dismiss that lightly, they said it and they mean it!

The US appears to support Israel unconditionally, but this is not true. (There are some government officials who feel this way, but I have not felt that any recent Administration takes this attitude. I personally feel that they should not support Israel blindly, but should exercise control -- after all, the US has the ability to limit financial aid, and that is a powerful lever to play. For example, I wish my government would require Israel to pull back to the 1967 (?) borders. That would reduce a lot of stress in the region.

I have enjoyed reading your blog.


This is a correction to the post above. My spell checker and my carelessness did it again!! In the next-to-last paragraph, the fourth sentence reads:

"The US wants to spread democracy just as Iran would like to spread the Illumination of countries.",

but it should be:

"The US wants to spread democracy just as Iran would like to spread the Islanization to other countries."

Now THAT is what I meant to say!


Barny the US will have many freinds if our goverment will have our country,s interest at heart 1-declair that international resolution about the middleast should be implemented so israel should return to 1967border for a full peace treaty with it,s naibours if it was not for Hizballa israel would still be in south lebanon and for sure the US goverment did not force israel to get out of Lebanon for 20 years that indicate that the US is not fair but biased against our own iterest,one more thing if it was syria who saved the christians in Lebanon because Assad cosedered them Arabs and wanted to do the right thing and protect them from JUmblat and the palestenians while the US and france looked the other way,if the US forces ISrael out of the ocupied golan yes for a full peace treaty ,I beleive syria will pull it,s army from the front with Israel and protect our soldjers back along the Iraqi border but the US has to help syria do that.

Cool guestbook, interesting information... Keep it UP
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