Iran, Syria sign mutual defense pact

Iran, Syria sign defense

Iran and Syria signed a defense agreement on Friday, according to an Iranian Press TV report. The document, signed by Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mohammad Habib Mahmoud, aimed to face "common enemies and challenges," the report said. Vahidi praised Syria's great potential in the defense and military fields and said that "it is natural for a country like Syria - which has an inhumane and menacing predator like Israel in its neighborhood - to be always prepared [against possible foreign aggression]." His visit to Syria comes a week after Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also visited Damascus. Iran's treaty with Syria comes just as Western countries are warning Teheran that if it fails to respond to overtures intended to make its nuclear program transparent, it will face sanctions. But as Iran was cementing its ties with Syria, the United States emphasized that its patience in waiting for a diplomatic response from Iran to its overtures is running thin. In a Wall Street Journal interview published on Friday, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said that "Iran still controls its destiny on [the nuclear] issue." The door to the diplomatic process would "stay open as long as we could leave it open… but it's not going to stay open much longer." According to Jones, the parties involved in negotiations with Teheran wish most of all that Iran's leaders would "give a clear statement of policy with regard to their future ambitions concerning the development of nuclear weapons and the delivery means to go with them." "As long as there's an open question on both of those issues, then Iran is just asking the world to trust them," Jones stated. "They think they can withstand anything the UN or the coalition of like-minded nations can put together. They might be right. They might be wrong." "If Iran pivots and does the right thing, whether it's December 30 or January 20, that's what everybody wants," he concluded. Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton questioned whether Iran had indeed any intention of coming clean on its nuclear program. Speaking with Al-Jazeera TV of the West's offer of dialogue with Iran, Clinton said "[the Iranians] had first agreed in principle, and then I think because of internal disputes, they backed off from that, raising a lot of questions about what their true intentions are. Obviously, the secret facility at Qom was revealed. They now say they want 10 or 20 new nuclear power plants." "It's not confidence building, let us say. And I think the international community really still wants to engage with Iran, but people are going to now turn to other routes like more pressure, like sanctions to try to change their mind and their behavior," Clinton said.