Analysis: Iran sees ally Syria surrounded by US wolves

In a country that knows a thing or two about diplomatic isolation, Iran's politicians describe Damascus gov't as an outpost of resistance.

August 15, 2011 22:50
3 minute read.
Ahmadinejad and Assad

Ahmadinejad Assad 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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TEHRAN - Beset by civil unrest at home and lambasted by the West and his Arab neighbors for his violent crackdown on dissent, Syria's President Bashar Assad can count on one firm ally: Iran.

In a country that knows a thing or two about diplomatic isolation, Iran's politicians and media describe the Damascus government as an outpost of resistance to Israel that has been set upon by Washington and its lackeys in the region.

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While several Gulf Arab countries have withdrawn their ambassadors in protest at the violence , and countries once close to Damascus, Russia and Turkey, have turned harshly critical , Iran is the only big country still backing Syria, arguing anything else would spell disaster.

"In regard to Syria we are confronted with two choices. The first is for us to place Syria in the mouth of a wolf named America and change conditions in a way that NATO would attack Syria," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"That would mean we would have a tragedy added to our other tragedies in the world of Islam."

"The second choice would be for us to contribute to the termination of the clashes in Syria," Boroujerdi said. "The interests of the Muslim people command that we mobilise ourselves to support Syria as a centre of Palestinian resistance."

A senior cleric pressed the message home. "It is the duty of all Muslims to help stabilise Syria against the destructive plots of America and Israel," said Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi.

Iran also used troops to put down mass protests following the disputed 2009 presidential election. Iranian leaders also described those demonstrations as a Western plot.

Iran had hoped the Arab Spring, something Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dubbed the "Islamic Awakening", would spell the end of US-backed autocracies and usher in an era of Muslim unity to face-down the West and Israel.

Khamenei used the June anniversary of the death of Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to tell the nation: "Our stance is clear: Wherever a movement is Islamic, popular and anti-American, we support it."

Without mentioning Syria by name, he continued: "If somewhere a movement is provoked by America and Zionists, we will not support it. Wherever America and the Zionists enter the scene to topple a regime and occupy a country, we are on the opposite side."

Mohammad Marandi, an associate professor at the University of Tehran, said Iran's support for Syria was based on a shared interest in helping resistance to Israel and that continuing to back Assad while he reforms Syria's one-party system was imperative.

"Iran has always believed that Syria should not be weakened, because the Israeli regime will certainly take advantage of any weakness," Marandi told Reuters.

"In any case, real reforms can only be carried out in a peaceful environment. The Western and pro-Western Arab media campaign against Syria is intended to destabilise the country and to prevent Syria from implementing reforms that will keep Syria strong and an anti-Israeli government in power."

He played down media reports of Iran increasing aid to Syria. "I have not heard of any extraordinary aid delivery, except in the Western media or media outlets owned by despotic Arab regimes."

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