By Seyed Hussein Mousavi
About an entire year has passed since the beginning of the unrest in Syria, and there are no more doubts that the country is not only a scene, but also a front for the confrontation between two kinds of logics and two global and regional approaches. One side of that front consists of the Western states led by the United States and its regional allies in the Middle East while, on the other side, there is another half of the international community represented by Russia, China, India and regional powers loyal to anti-Zionist resistance led by Iran.
The following article is an effort to identify theoretical fundaments of Iran’s support for Syria under the current critical conditions and to answer this question: “What changes will the absence of Syria make to the political map of the Middle East?”
First – The Islamic Republic of Iran’s logic for supporting the government and people of Syria is based on a set of grounds which have been behind various aspects of Iran’s regional strategy during the past 30 years. The government and people of Syria were among the first governments and nations to voice their support for the Islamic Revolution in Iran and appreciate its anti-arrogance and anti-Zionist nature. The Syrian government and nation were in the frontline of support for the Islamic Republic of Iran during its Imposed War with the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and took sides with Iran in all international and regional organizations both officially and practically. Let’s not forget that Syria’s position during the Imposed War dealt drastic blows to regional prestige of Saddam Hussein. The Syrian government and nation has also chosen in the past four decades to keep the strategic balance against the Zionist regime. Since the former Soviet Union fell apart, the country has given priority in its regional policy to a strategy of resistance and deterrence against the Zionist regime of Israel. The Syrian government and nation has also played an important part in creating and bolstering the anti-Zionist resistance in Palestine and Lebanon and has been, in fact, leading the resistance front against expansionist policies of the Zionist regime and the United States with all-out support from Iran. This reality should not be ignored that if it were not for the regional resistance front, the Zionist regime would have expanded the scope of its ambitions to the Persian Gulf. After the Palestinian groups were expelled from Lebanon following Israel’s invasion of the country, it was the Syrian government and nation which opened its arms to them and opposed the peace negotiations in Oslo during the 1990s. At present, 17 Palestinian organizations and groups have based their activities in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Regional and international strategies and policies adopted by the Syrian government over the past few decades on many developments and events have been very close to Iran’s regional strategies and policies. As a result and from viewpoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s national interests, Tehran’s support for the Syrian government under current critical conditions, especially in view of the existing arrangement of global and regional political players, is a strategic imperative.
Second – The difference between political developments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and the domestic crisis in Syria is an essential and fundamental difference and I believe that it is directly related to the fate as well as existence or nonexistence of the ideals of Muslim nations in the region. There were no political organizations, parties or clear political currents in Tunisia and Egypt to be considered a suitable alternative for the regimes of Zine al Abidine bin Ali or Hosni Mubarak. As a result, the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were broad-based, indigenous and not dependent on foreign powers. On the contrary, the internal crisis is Syria is neither broad-based, nor indigenous. Then so-called National Council of Syria, which leads the Syrian opposition, has clearly asked other countries to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria in a way which is reminiscent of the Libyan model. The Arab League, the United States, and its Western allies have openly stated that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, must step down and have designed various scenarios for intervention in the country’s internal affairs. Meanwhile, the Arab League has been totally silent on the popular uprising in Bahrain and the dispatch of military units by Saudi Arabia and other members of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council to support al-Khalifa regime. Also in Yemen, the Arab League has accepted a peaceful mechanism for transfer of power and in not-so-far past, had lent its full support to Bin Ali and Hosni Mubarak up to the last hours of their downfall. The double policies adopted by the United States and, in general, all Western countries in the face of political developments in the Middle East are quite familiar for any impartial observer. It would suffice to point out that Zbignew Brzezinski, the national security advisor to the former US president, Jimmy Carter, recently took Washington to task by callings its different policies toward Syrian and Bahrain, shameless, hypocritical and against the very fundamental principles of the US foreign policy.
As a result, the ongoing developments in Syria stem from a premeditated scenario which has been planned by Western countries through cooperation as well as financial assistance and regional coverage of the remaining moderate Arab regimes led by Saudi Arabia which are trying to make up for the practical separation of Tunisia and Egypt from the alliance of such moderate regimes.
Third – Since the very beginning of Arab uprisings and revolutions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has voiced through the words of its highest authority, that is, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, and in a well-defined manner based on its theoretical and ideological principles that it supports the wave of the Islamic awakening in the region if the resultant uprisings were independence-seeking, anti-Zionist and against interference by foreign forces. According to that general viewpoint, the Islamic Republic decided that developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain fulfilled all or some of those criteria and is supporting uprisings in those countries. However, based on the same reasons and other reasons which will be mentioned hereinafter, Tehran believed, and still believes, that developments and internal crisis in Syria does not fulfill those criteria.
On the opposite, Western countries and all moderate Arab states in the region have clearly divided those uprisings and the wave of the Islamic awakening in two good and bad categories! The United States and Arab countries of the Persian Gulf believe that developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen are not favorable and detrimental. Just one week after the beginning of the popular uprising of the Egyptian people, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Mubarak’s regime was powerful enough to weather the crisis. The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates also met with Hosni Mubarak in Cairo as representative of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council’s member states, to give him the Council’s support. The same countries believe that developments in Libya and Syria are useful, constructive and democratic and are doing their best at all levels to help those developments achieve their final goals, even through foreign military intervention. The United States and Arab countries of the Persian Gulf expect the Bahraini opposition to reach a compromise with that country’s government by accepting the least possible concessions while, on the other hand, are urging the Syrian opposition not to accept negotiations with the Syrian government. The irony about US positions on regional developments is that Washington considers itself in a position to decide about favorable or unfavorable nature of Arab uprisings, and criticizes Russia, China, India, Iran, Brazil, and Venezuela for not sharing its views. In fact, positions taken by Tehran, Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi on the situation in Syria is very similar to the United States’ position on popular uprisings launched by the Muslim nations of Bahrain and Yemen which are follow-up to similar past uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The United States opposes the uprising of the Muslim nation of Bahrain against al-Khalifa dictatorship because Washington is well aware that in case of regime change in the country, Bahrain would not continue to host the US Fifth Fleet. On the other hand, Iran opposes developments in Syria because it knows that if the government of Bashar al-Assad is toppled, a very important and strategic stronghold of the anti-Zionist resistance will be lost and this issue will have devastating strategic outcomes for the whole region in the future. As said before, the struggle in Syria is not over dictatorship or democracy, but is the struggle between two regional strategies and two different kinds of logic. Interestingly, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf which form the frontline of defending democratization in Syria are among the most backward and dictatorial regimes with totally closed political structures. It would suffice to say that concurrent with the soaring waves of the Islamic awakening in the region, some women in Saudi Arabia were arrested for driving. Therefore, when it comes to defending democracy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain should be the last in line for offering their support.
Seyed Hussein Mousavi is the President of the Center for Scientific Research and Middle East Strategic Studies (MERC)
Source: Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (MERC)
Translated By: Iran Review
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