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Iran and the Lebanization of Syria

Saturday March 31, 2012 11:27:49 PM, Tariq Alhomayed

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Tehran has today taken the decision to politically involve itself (in the Syrian crisis), warning the international community and regional states against any unilateral intervention in Syria, and even offering the possibility of helping out (in Syria). Why is Iran doing this now?

The reasons for this are clear; Tehran wants to send a public message to the Turks, prior to the “Friends of Syria” meeting, warning them against taking any practical steps. Iran also wants to send a threatening message to the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, not to physically support the Syrian revolutionaries.


The other issue is that Tehran wants to say that it is capable of convincing Assad to take action, although this is unclear, for will Iran, for example, convince Assad to depart? This is something that is not believable, alternatively have the Iranians truly been convinced that the Assad card has been burned, and they must therefore take action to reduce their losses following his ouster, which means that Tehran must play some role at this present time? Some might say that this is madness, and here the question that arises is: How could Iran dare to say what it said?

The answer to this is also clear, for as much as the Iranians are aware of the intransigence of the Syrian revolution, they do not see any seriousness on the part of US President Barack Obama to intervene in Syria. Tehran believes that the Americans are hiding behind Annan’s mission, which has allowed the Iranians to believe that this is also an opportunity to intervene (in Syria).


The reality is that Assad himself spared everybody the pain of saying that his acceptance of Annan’s plan was not genuine, for he himself came out – after he said that he had accepted this — to say that there must be more discussion on Annan’s plan. This led the US State Department to express its disappointment, however, the real disappointment is in anybody — regardless of whomever it is — believing in Assad’s promises in the first place.


Iran’s belief in the lack of seriousness on the part of Obama has caused Tehran to venture to transform Syria into a new Lebanon, in other words that regional powers must sit down at the same table to negotiate the future of Syria, as occurs with the formation of any Lebanese government. However this would be a critical mistake, and responding to this overture would be a crime, for Iran must not be allowed to do this, in the same manner that it was allowed to control Iraq.

What the American must pay attention to can be summarized in the important view put forward by a Syrian Army officer defector, who said “as soon as Washington announces the departure of AWACS (Airborne early warning and control system) planes or unmanned drones to fly over Damascus and the rest of Syria, with the objective of monitoring military position that they believe issue orders to target civilians…at this time the world will be shocked by the number of defections from the (Syrian) army” and this may even increase the likelihood of a coup being carried out (against Assad).


Therefore Obama, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey must publicly announce that Assad will not escape in the same manner that he did following the assassination of Rafik Hariri, and that his departure is guaranteed, whatever happens.


At this time, the situation in Syria will begin to accelerate, particularly if we move forward with regards to arming the (Syrian) revolutionaries on the ground; doing otherwise means that we have begun to surrender our Arab states — one after another — to Iran, and this would be a crime against our future and security.

The above article appeared in today's Arab News.

The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. He can be contacted at



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