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We Wanted Syria…But Along Came Iran! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The political scene in our region looks like this: a hunter shot a bullet towards a falcon perched on a tree but to his surprise a huge bear came down instead!

When Saudi diplomacy began to take action specifically towards Arab reconciliation and under the banner of organizing the Arab structure, after which we saw Saudi King Abdullah in Syria and then Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Riyadh and then al Assad and [Lebanese Prime Minister] Saad al Hariri heading for Damascus after thinking that there would be no such meeting, along comes Iran running towards the Arabs, also motivated by Western pressure of course. [It is] in search of a strategic Islamic alliance and let us call things by their names at this point; [it is in search of] a Saudi-Egyptian-Turkish-Iranian alliance. This is why we say the hunter was waiting for the falcon, i.e. Syria, but got the bear, i.e. Iran!

In Cairo, and in front of journalists at the Arab League, [Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali] Larijani said that his country is “enthusiastic about friendly relations with neighboring countries [for strategic reasons] focusing on the necessity of unity between Islamic countries without distinguishing between Shia and Sunni.” What he means is an Arab-Turkish-Iranian alliance. Larijani indicated that Iran has good ties with Arab countries “such as Yemen, the UAE, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Palestine,” adding that there may be differences of opinion however Iran and those countries are in agreement over Palestine’s right to resistance “and regardless of that our treatment towards all of those countries is brotherly.” What’s striking here is that Larijani did not mention Syria and all the countries he did mention have real problems with Iran!

The other important issue is [Iranian Foreign Minister] Manouchehr Mottaki’s visit to Lebanon. The most conspicuous comment he made there was that his country wants excellent ties with Lebanon, but they must be direct ties, without any mediation. According to a very well-informed Lebanese, what the Lebanese politicians understood from the Iranian Foreign Minister was “communicate with us without having to resort to the Syrians!”

Building on this information, it is clear that the Iranians are starting to feel the Arab isolation, and they want to neutralize the Arabs before the time is up for negotiations with the West. They want two main things: either to break the isolation and neutralize Arab politicians with regards to siding with the international community in case sanctions are imposed upon Iran or Iran wants to improve its image in front of public opinion in case of any confrontation with the international community, or sanctions, and for the sake of facilitating using the Hamas or Hezbollah card. Both issues mean that not only does Tehran want to reduce the Arab rapprochement that took place with Syria; it also wants to marginalize Syria through wider rapprochement between Saudi, Turkey, Egypt and Iran.

However the question is: can Tehran be trusted? I doubt it! The clearest evidence of that is that Larijani denied that his country has any ties with the Houthis [in Yemen] and then put forward the possibility of “confronting this issue.” How can he mediate when he has no ties with the Houthis?! It is clear that Tehran wants to protect the Houthis after the Saudis broke the Houthi thorn and Iran wants to break the isolation and reduce the Arab openness towards Damascus and to stop it from having major influence, and also to stop the West from pulling out the Arab card in case of any forthcoming action to be taken by the West as a result of the nuclear file negotiations!

What Iran wants is to kill a number of birds with one stone, not to reassure the Arabs.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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