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Syria turning to Iran for help - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syria is able to turn to Iran for help, raising its fears and concerns to Tehran. There are numerous reasons for the Syrian people’s sufferings, from a despotic leader who has dishonoured everybody to his delusional regime that is promoting the lie that terrorists are trying to come to power. However in reality, Iran is the chief cause of the Syrian people’s suffering. In fact, the Syrian regime’s commitment to holding tight to a strategic alliance with a state that has long considered terrorism a national policy, and which has continued to interfere in Arab affairs, will definitely have a very high price. However unfortunately, this price is being paid by the Syrian people, and the country as a whole.

Upon his arrival in Lebanon on Monday, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, appeared to eulogize the Syrian regime, in a step that suggests that Iran is seeking to replace this regime in Lebanon. Jalili visited Emad Mughniya’s tomb, rather than the Martyrs Memorial, whilst he said that Lebanon has become a star and model for the resistance – both regionally and internationally – adding that great accomplishments have been made in Lebanon thanks to the heroic resistance. He also made reference to the road to Beirut International Airport being blocked in protest against electricity blackouts. This aimed to prevent tourists from travelling to Lebanon, and ensure that the country remains firmly in Iran’s grip, particularly after the Lebanese protesters chained the electricity company’s gates to prevent access.

Jalili also condemned the abduction of Iranian “visitors” in Damascus, describing this as a “disgraceful” act. Whilst Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah stressed his organization’s backing of the state in its fight against corrupt elements, Jalili’s words about the kidnapers were echoed across the country, and resulted in the road to the Beirut International Airport being blocked once more, this time by protesters calling for Lebanese detainees in Syria to be released, along with threats of escalation.

Last Monday, this “dose” seemed too much for the majority of the Lebanese people. For whilst Nasrallah delivered a lengthy speech about the importance of resistance as a weapon for Lebanon, Jalili was cited as saying that the Lebanese people and government are aware, more than anyone else, how to maintain this “bright jewel.”

So who is backing who here? Is it Jalili or Nasrallah? Both sides are gambling on Lebanon. Nasrallah stressed that Hezbollah is not seeking to dominate all of Lebanon, yet the Iranian security official’s arrival in Beirut was meant to bring the Iranians into Lebanon, in order to replace the Syrian regime there. Yet, Jalili seemed to have forgotten the fate Syria is now heading towards, thanks to Lebanon. Syria in Lebanon was almost akin to Samson pulling down the temple on top of himself. After Syria withdrew from Lebanon, the country’s role and power collapsed, precisely in the same manner that Samson’s strength disappeared after Delilah had cut his hair! This is precisely what will happen to Iran, as clinging to Lebanon under the pretext of backing the resistance will be of no avail. What happened to Syria in Lebanon will also happen to Iran! How many Samsons’ have met their end in Lebanon, whilst Lebanon survived?

Neither Iran nor Syria will prosper; however what is ridiculous is that some politicians who previously received “representatives” of the Syrian regime are now receiving “representatives” of the Iranian regime, in order to conspire against Lebanon’s national interest. Lebanese political history will not forgive Zaher al-Khatib for appearing on Syrian television on Sunday night and calling Syria’s envoy to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, “our envoy”, as if he had relinquished his own citizenship to please the Syrians.

Returning to the Syrian apprehension as expressed by its Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Tehran on 29 July, Iranian officials revealed Syria was worried about a possible Turkish military invasion, namely the exploitation of humanitarian cases and the Kurdish tension to create “buffer zones” in the country. Muallem was cited as saying that elements from the Kurdish Democratic Party, instructed by the party’s leader Massoud Barzani, invaded four Kurdish villages in the Syrian Qamishli district where they clashed with fighters from the

Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK], a situation that may push Turkey to enter Syria. Muallem also told Iranian officials that Damascus considers Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats in this regard as being very serious, particularly as they coincide with regional and international movements that could push Ankara to take action. This all coincided with Turkey deploying troops and military ordnances in an unprecedented manner, not to mention the military manoeuvres it is carrying out along the border. Muallem expressed the Syrian leadership’s apprehensions regarding Turkish military action, considering this imminent and therefore called on Tehran to exert pressure on Ankara to prevent it from taking any military action inside Syria.

For its part, the Iranian party played down Syria’s “concerns” and told Muallem that the Turkish threats are only meant for “local consumption” as a result of an internal crisis that Erdogan is experiencing in Turkey. In addition to this, should Turkish troops invade Syrian soil, the ethnic and ideological situation may explode in Erdogan’s face, particularly as Sunni-Alawite tensions are escalating in Turkey, according to Iranian officials.

Muallem reportedly attempted to convince Tehran to deploy Iranian troops along the Turkish border, yet the Iranian officials promised that Tehran would exert political and economic pressures instead.

According to reliable information, Iran declined to deploy military troops along its border with Turkey owing to the security coordination it had previously established with Ankara over the expansive border the two country’s share, namely in order to confront their joint enemy; the Kurds.

Muallem and the Iranian officials had agreed that Tehran would convince Iraq to pressure Barzani to cease his party’s activities in the Syrian Kurdish districts, and this is why Muallem travelled from Tehran to Baghdad directly. According to reliable information, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s discontent regarding Barzani’s actions and intervention in Syrian affairs was exploited in this regard. Al-Maliki had a verbal disagreement with his foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, who had criticized Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian regime during a television interview. This prompted al-Maliki to prevent Zebari from attending cabinet meetings for violating the al-Maliki government’s pro-Assad stance.

Tehran promised Muallem that it would act promptly to establish a regional conference on Syria, and this meeting was extended to include Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Iran also promised Muallem that it will persist with its endeavour to broker a meeting between the Syrian opposition and government, in a stance suggesting that Iran is now seeking to play a balanced role, albeit too late, following its clear early bias towards the Syrian regime.

Iran kept some of its promises. Immediately after Muallem departed, the Turkish Assistant Foreign Minister for Middle East Affairs arrived in Tehran where he met with Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian Foreign Minister, for talks on the Syrian situation.

In reality, perhaps what the newspapers affiliated to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp reported was the complete opposite of the outcome of the negotiation! One of these newspapers said that Iran threatened that any Turkish military intervention would be met with a strong Iranian reaction, because Tehran would abide by the defense agreements signed between Iran and Syria, namely the marine defense agreement (2006) and the air defense agreement (2009).

According to an Iranian source that participated in the Syrian negotiation, the Syrian officials are in a state of growing panic and apprehension regarding the possibility of Turkish forces entering Syrian soil.

What remains to be said is that it would have been better if the Iranian Foreign Ministry had recalled the statement made by its minister on 3 August, when Salehi said that the situation in Syria is normal, calm and there is no problem with the Iranian community there.

It is worth noting that the Iranian Foreign Minister, together with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, insisted on Monday that Lebanon is the centre of the “resistance” and that it must shoulder its consequences. For his part, Jalili also said “our friends in Hamas…are nothing more than a natural extension of the resistance movement in Lebanon.” Both parties are placing Lebanon in an increasingly difficult position, and this is at the same time that the world is celebrating the safe landing of the “Curiosity” rover on Mars, whilst American – Lebanese, Dr. Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, played a large part in this.