There is a paradox in our region that deserves careful study. Iran is attacking the American administration on all levels, accusing it of being behind the [recent] suicide bombing that targeted a mosque in the city of Zahedan [in south-east Iran], while at the same time the Syrians have been remarkably quiet with regards to the Americans.
The targeting of the Shiite mosque was followed a day later by gunmen attacking President Ahmadinejad’s election office [in Zahedan]. This only served to increase the Iranian response which resulted in the speedy execution of three individuals accused of carrying out the Zahedan bombing. The Iranian Supreme Leader also hurried to make a speech calling for the Sunnis and Shiites [in Iran] to show restraint.
This all took place at the same time that the Syrian Arab News Agency [SANA] announced President al-Assad’s meeting in Damascus with US Senator Ted Kaufman and US Congressman Tim Walz. SANA announced that the Syrian President and his American guests discussed bilateral relations between Syria and the US “and the necessity of working to remove the barriers that hinder this relationship.” According to SANA, President al-Assad also highly valued “President Obama’s adoption of dialogue as a means of tackling difficult issues.”
It is worth noting that Iran is attacking America under the pretext that Washington is tampering with its [national] security at the same time that Syria is praising Obama, and talking of the “necessity” of removing the barriers that hinder the relationship between the two countries. This soothing Syrian statement came [even] after Washington renewed its sanctions against Damascus.
It is important to note here that the Iranian attack on Washington is not a product of the Zahedan explosion, but began before this, when the Supreme Leader of Iran visited the Kurdish region of Iran a few weeks ago and launched a strong attack against the Salafists, describing them as enemies of the nation and agents of the America.
The change in the Syrian statements is also not a product of the recent American visit [to Damascus]. Rather this change in position [towards the US] was noticeable in President al-Assad’s speech to a meeting of foreign ministers at the Organization of the Islamic Conference held in Damascus [on 25 May]. In this speech, President al-Assad said “We must not allow the violation of our sovereignty and independence” adding “we need the support of our brothers and friends all over the world.” This prompted Prince Saud al-Faisal to say “President al-Assad’s words must be used as a methodical document for the conference, and we must take his advice and be self-reliant, and take steps to protect our countries and interests”
This is not all, in an interview conducted by Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel and presidential adviser to Bill Clinton said that the Netanyahu government needs to respond to Obama’s peace efforts. Indyk added that the Syrians may take a position to support the peace process, adding that “if Syria is serious in its intentions – and this is being explored at this juncture – this will weaken the Iranian plans to control the region.”
Indyk also said that there is a greater flexibility than in the past in Syria, and added that he believed that if Israel recognizes Syrian sovereignty over the entire Golan region then the Syrians would be willing to negotiate on all other issues.
It must also be noted that whilst our region is waiting for the [forthcoming] critical days of Obama’s visit to Riyadh, and his speech in Cairo, as well as the Lebanese and Iranian elections, every statement and position in our region must be closely monitored.