Syrian Ally Iran: Battle Rages
- Category: Uncensored News
- Published on Tuesday, 07 August 2012 18:03
Syrian television showed an Iranian delegation led by the aide, Saeed Jalili, at the presidential palace in Damascus during President Bashar al-Assad’s first televised appearance since a bomb killed four of his top security officials last month. The backdrop of the meeting was a serious escalation in the war, with rebel brigades and Syrian fighter jets facing off in Aleppo, Syria’s largest metropolis, as opposition groups reported shelling or clashes in more than a dozen cities and towns.
Mr. Jalili, a top diplomat who is also the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Iran would not accept any interference from outside powers in the 17-month-old conflict in Syria, a country that has been a vital piece of Iran’s power projection in the Middle East since the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.
With Mr. Assad’s hold on power appearing more tenuous by the day, the visit underscored Iran’s increasingly dogmatic view of the conflict.
“What is happening in Syria is not an internal Syrian issue but a conflict between the axis of the resistance and its enemies in the region and the world,” Mr. Jalili said in comments reported on Syrian state television. He added: “Iran will not tolerate, in any form, the breaking of the axis of the resistance, of which Syria is an intrinsic part.”
The comments came as Iran completed plans to host a meeting on Thursday with other allies of Syria, which it has not identified, to discuss the conflict.
In tone and substance, Iranian officials seem to be recasting Syria’s role in the region in the same uncompromising rhetoric of Iran’s battle with the West over its nuclear program. As Iran suffocates under international anti-nuclear sanctions, its leaders appear to have bundled Syria’s fight with their own, warning countries to stop meddling with Mr. Assad.
Iranian political analysts in the West said Iran’s leaders, having aligned themselves with the Syrian government for so long, also feel more than ever that they have no other recourse but to stick with Mr. Assad, even if his government has committed harsh abuses. His adversaries, both in and out of Syria, have expressed deep antipathy for Iran. If they took power, they would most likely move to undo an alliance that has been a fundamental piece of Iranian foreign policy.
“Iran, in a lot of ways, has no Plan B,” said Alireza Nader, an expert on Iran at the Washington offices of the RAND Corporation, a research group. “I think the main issue is that Iranian foreign policy has become so rigid that it’s hard to come up with a Plan B. They’ve built this framework of resistance that’s hard to escape.”
Mr. Jalili’s visit, which was also an attempt to secure the release of 45 Iranian hostages held by Syrian rebels, appeared to strain relations with Turkey, an important trading partner that has been alienated by Mr. Assad. The Foreign Ministry in Turkey — where Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, was visiting — issued a strong rebuke.
“It is unacceptable and irresponsible that Iranian officials in various posts continue to target our country through their statements,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Seeking to shift blame back to Mr. Assad, it added: “Everyone knows who, inside and outside Syria, is responsible for the human tragedy caused by the Syrian regime. They will be called to account by history and human conscience.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, traveling in South Africa, also warned against turning Syria into a proving ground for outside interests. “Those who are attempting to exploit the misery of the Syrian people, either by sending in proxies or sending in terrorist fighters, must recognize that that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people,” she said.
Accounts of the Assad-Jalili meeting in Syria’s state news media emphasized the view that Mr. Assad’s government was resilient and in control. Syria television reported that Mr. Assad had assured Mr. Jalili that the Syrian people would make sure that “foreign projects” in Syria failed as the government pursued its enemies “without complacency.”