Iran Viewpoint: Iran Threat Tactic To Checkmate Syria – OpEd


By Ali Valigholizadeh

The international scene has been recently witness to various threats by Israelis, Americans and certain European countries against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although such threats, especially from the Israelis, had started before release of the recent Iran report of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the country’s nuclear program, they became more serious after IAEA director general, Yukiya Amano, published his report. The report has been assessed by most experts as being purely motivated on political grounds. In that report, IAEA claimed that it is in possession of information which proves the existence of a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear activities. Interestingly, Israeli and American officials knew all about the content of the report before it was officially circulated and orchestrated an intensely negative propaganda campaign against Iran. According to IAEA Statute, the content of the reports, which is considered confidential, cannot be revealed before they are released to all members of the Agency.

Although recent threats against Iran have been very extensive, the West’s claims about diversion in Iran’s nuclear activities are nothing new. Efforts made by the western countries to intensify sanctions against Iran are not new either. Even Israel’s military threat against Iran is not new. Many experts maintain that all these threats and measures are aimed to help the United States to set the stage and encourage the international community to agree to more serious and extensive sanctions against the country. In this way, they want to make Iran totally isolated in economic terms. Even before IAEA released its latest report, they talked about imposing sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran to disturb the country’s import and export system. According to this viewpoint, although the White House has followed its usual strategy toward Iran in which no option has been ever taken off the table and military assault is always an option, a threat to military strike against Iran seems to be nothing more than a political tactic.

Under present circumstances, a military strike against Iran is not strategically possible for the United States because of various reasons. On the one side, such an attack will fall short of meeting West’s expectations against Iran as it may put an end to peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. On the other hand, given the currently critical economic conditions in the United States and Europe, it is very unlikely that after getting engaged in two costly wars in the Middle East, Washington will be willing to get involved in a totally different and new war. Such a measure will have grave political, economic and diplomatic consequences for the attacker. Firstly, Iran is totally different from Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya and all countries have owned up to Iran’s military might and regional position. Though hated by some political establishments in the region, Iran is highly popular in geopolitical terms among popular groups in the Middle East. Iran is not only one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world, it is in full control of the world’s biggest and the most strategic energy flow channel, that is, the Strait of Hormuz. If Iran could, even temporarily, close down the Strait, through which about 40 percent of the world oil passes, international oil prices will greatly rise. This will be a further blow to already weakened world markets and cause severe losses to the process of economic recuperation in the United States. Therefore, under present circumstances and considering economic crisis, arrival of the cold season, as well as high energy demand and price, it will not be in Obama’s benefit to enter into a new war.

On the other hand, given the United States’ geopolitical interests in the periphery of Iran, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, the least pressure by Iran on the US troops in those geostrategic areas will exacerbate the security conditions to the detriment of Washington. Americans are also quite familiar with political and national spirit of the Iranian nation. They know that despite political differences, Iranians will unite in the face of any foreign assault. Meanwhile, the Americans are well aware that they cannot use fictitious scenarios (without producing any real document to prove diversion in Iran’s nuclear activities) as a ground to attack Iran. Perhaps, the United States and its allies would be able to interfere in Syria under the pretext of supporting democracy and popular opposition groups – as they did in Libya – and that intervention may be supported by Sunni Arabs, especially revolutionary groups in the Middle East and North Africa. In the case of Iran, however, concocting scenarios under the present circumstances will certainly increase popularity and geopolitical position of Iran among revolutionary groups. This may make the already shaky standing of the United States in the Middle East totally critical.

Another facet to this discussion is disorderly internal situation of Syria as Iran’s closest strategic ally in the region which has drawn regional and international attention to the country. A geopolitical approach to this issue, not one based on human rights concerns, will prove that Syria is the biggest strategic ally of Iran and the anti-Israeli resistance in the region. The country is also the Achilles’ heel of the Arab and Sunni world. Therefore, the international community’s claim to supporting democracy in Syria is just an excuse under which they are trying to topple the government of the incumbent President Bashar al-Assad and create new geopolitical arrangements against Iran by eliminating Achilles’ heel of the Arab world.

In more precise words, the region is in the vortex of extensive strategic changes and concurrent pressure on Iran and Syria can be considered along the same line. In view of the aforesaid reasons, military intervention in Iran is currently out of the question. Therefore, the United States and Europe are trying along with their allies to boost political, economic, and psychological pressures against Iran to make economic and political activities more difficult for the country. Intensification of Iran’s geopolitical isolation will have profound psychological effects on the spirit and power of Tehran’s strategic ally. The United States and its allies have done their best in recent days to occupy Iran with grave psychological and economic problems in order to prevent its political and military support for Syria. Examples to the point include recent allegations about Iran’s complicity in an assassination plot targeting the Saudi ambassador to US and insistence of Washington and Saudi Arabia on taking the case to the United Nations Security Council to adopt an anti-Iranian resolution as well as intensification of tensions between Iran and the Saudi – Turkey axis. They have been also escalating international sanctions against Tehran to include the Central Bank of Iran in a bid to disrupt the country’s import and export mechanisms.The undocumented report of IAEA director general (mostly based on US claims) about Iran’s nuclear activities and its consideration by IAEA Board of Governors was done with the purpose of using that report to further incite the international community against Iran. They have also launched an unprecedentedly widespread propaganda campaign about possible military attack on Iran. Add to this long list the fact that Iran is already entangled in domestic political, foreign, and economic crises.

On the other hand, Syria, as Iran’s closest strategic ally, is experiencing totally critical conditions on the other side of the equation. Now that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is done in Libya, the United States and its allies have completely focused on Syria. Although Damascus has threatened that foreign intervention in Syria will be like playing with fire, the United States and its allies have decided to reduce the power of Damascus before any form of direct intervention. As said before, unlike Iran, foreign military intervention in Syria is by no means impossible. At present, Syria’s conditions have become once more critical. Perhaps this is somehow due to the reality that just a day after the Syrian government announced its agreement to the Arab League’s plan to stop harsh treatment of protesters, withdraw security forces from the streets and start negotiations with the opposition, clashes heightened between protesters and government forces. Some opposition figures even noted that the Arab League’s plan was too reconciliatory and lenient and asked the protesters to continue street demonstrations, avoid of negotiations with the government, and continue their struggle until the Syrian regime is toppled with the help of foreign forces.

The conditions provided the Americans and their allies with a good opportunity to use a multifaceted active diplomacy (one facet of which was worsening geopolitical isolation of Iran) and clear the way for a regime change in Syria. It is quite evident that the Arab League’s plan was meant for justification of foreign intervention from the first. After opposition groups treated the plan coldly, the European Union announced that its members have reached an early agreement to impose more sanctions against Syria. Meanwhile, the pressure exerted on Syria by Russia and China to accept the Arab League’s initiative should not be ignored. If it was not for such pressures from Russia and China, the Syrian government would not have accepted the plan even orally. One day after the Syrian protesters carried placards asking the Arab League to suspend their country’s membership in the League and officially recognize the transitional council, the League members took the Syrian government by surprise and in addition to suspending its membership, recalled their ambassadors from Damascus.

Judging from their positions on Syria, it seems that Arab countries have been convinced about regime change in Syria. Diplomatic pressures, in the meantime, are tightening on the Syrian government. It started by suspension of Syria’s membership in the Arab League and was followed by the Jordanian king’s call on Assad to step down and the three-day deadline given to Damascus by the Arab League to stop suppression of protesters and allow foreign observers to enter the country. In addition, it was recently announced that some Arab leaders have said they were ready to grant asylum to the Syrian president. Turkey has also announced that if military intervention gains relative legitimacy from Arab countries and even the EU, it will directly take part in the conflict. Turkey has already ended cooperation with Syria in exploring oil reserves and has threatened that if the violence continued in the country, it would cut power exports to its southern neighbor.

On the whole, the international community has not reached a final conclusion on the necessity of military intervention in Syria, as it did in the case of Libya. However, overall political situation in the region as well as threats leveled and pressures exerted by the Americans and their allies against Iran and Syria indicate that all the pieces of the regional political and geopolitical chess have been arranged in a cunning way by the United States and its allies against Syria. In fact, the United States and its allies are trying to kill two birds with one stone through this strategy. Firstly, they want to increase Iran’s geopolitical isolation by boosting concurrent political and economic pressures on Syria. If successful, this process will provide Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as the sole regional rivals of Iran, with a vital geopolitical opportunity.

Therefore, the main goal of all the ongoing propaganda as well as political, economic and military threats by the United States and its allies is to change the Syrian regime. At any rate, Iran’s diplomatic apparatus should take West’s threats quite seriously because increased sway of the West in Syria will lead to contraction of Iran’s geopolitical borders.

Ali Valigholizadeh
Expert on International and Geopolitical Issues

Iran Review

Iran Review is a Tehran-based site that is independent, non-governmental and non-partisan and representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran’s political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.

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