Free Syrian Army fighter 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Aref Hretani)
Evil begets evil. A regime that actively supports terrorism, meddles in the
affairs of other countries and seeks nuclear- weapons capability is inherently
dangerous, but that does not grant it immunity from the kind of violence that it
has spawned and nurtured.
The suicide bombing attack on Iran’s embassy in
Beirut last week was an alltoo- fitting counterpoint to the menacing projection
of Iranian influence and power.
It was Iran that introduced the act of
bombing a foreign legation in Beirut 30 years ago, when Hezbollah destroyed the
The Hezbollah-Iran partnership has fatally struck many times
over the years, in the Middle East and in Latin America, Asia and
They are currently collaborating in Syria in defense of the
Bashar Assad regime, whose brutal reaction to a nascent revolt has led to the
most violent and destabilizing outcome of any of the political revolutions
across the Arab world over the past few years.
Assad has relied on his
longtime allies to do whatever he deems necessary, and with their assistance, to
stay in power.
While Assad decries foreign support for his opponents,
whom he labels terrorists, he has had no qualms about welcoming the engagement
of his favorite external actors, Hezbollah and Iran.
Assad’s other chief
allies, China and Russia, have used their political power to block any
meaningful UN Security Council action, and they last week thwarted a UN measure
calling on Assad to ensure safe passage inside Syria for food, medicine and
other humanitarian supplies. Millions of Syrian refugees inside the country
desperately await such assistance, but the regime has severely restricted their
access to it.
The failure to deliver essential humanitarian aid stands in
sharp contrast to the apparent willingness of Assad to cooperate in shutting
down his vast chemical weapons operation.
But whether a plan can be
developed for collecting, exporting and ultimately destroying all of Syria’s
chemical weapons remains uncertain. Nonetheless, the US-Russia initiative gave
Assad a virtual reprieve from earlier calls for his removal.
Assad behaves now with renewed confidence, offering to send representatives to
possible peace talks in Geneva next month that he probably speculates will not
take place. Yet the anticipation is there. During the P5+1 negotiations with
Iran, which resulted in the interim nuclear deal announced on Sunday, there was
growing expectation that the US and Russia could also get the various parties to
the Syria conflict around a table in Geneva.
Iran, of course, expects to
get a seat. It should not.
The master of denial, Iran has rejected
charges of involvement on the ground in Syria at least as often as it has denied
any intention of developing the capacity to produce nuclear
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have, in fact, been very active in
Syria; and in a rare public appearance this month, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik
Hassan Nasrallah, reaffirmed his vow to keep his forces in Syria.
pity that the P5+1 meeting in Geneva did not raise Iran’s regional behavior, in
particular its critical support for Hezbollah’s foothold in Lebanon and its
military involvement in Syria. Indeed, there are many more questions than
answers about Iran, Syria and Hezbollah following the conclusion of the Geneva
The six-month interim deal does not in itself guarantee an end to
Iran’s nuclear-weapons quest, and that’s a lesson no doubt being absorbed in
Damascus. Assad may well look at what Tehran got, after years of obstinacy and
defiance, and conclude that if he, too, continues to say the right words, he can
continue to hold on.
It worked for Assad on chemical weapons, averting an
attack by the US and France after his regime murdered Syrians with those weapons
of mass destruction. Prospects for the Syrian people are not encouraging. As The
Wall Street Journal pointed out so aptly in an editorial, “The most lethal WMD
in Syria today is Bashar Assad himself.”