Hot off the Arab press 442304

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir- Abdollahian (left) sits next to Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad during a joint press conference in Damascus on September 3, 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir- Abdollahian (left) sits next to Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad during a joint press conference in Damascus on September 3, 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran is not fighting in Syria
Al-Nahar, Lebanon, January 13
Last week, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani- Fazli claimed that while Tehran is equipping and training the Syrian army, it is not sending forces to fight actively on the ground.
Such statements are neither new nor surprising.
What is ironic about them, however, is that they were said at a time when the Iranian presence in Syria has reached unprecedented levels.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has already admitted several times that nearly 50 percent of his forces have been lost in battle, while the territory he controls has shrunk to 16% of the country. There is absolutely no doubt that the only thing keeping him in power is the backing provided to him by Iran.
Before the ink on the nuclear agreement even dried, Iranian forces were already deployed in Syria to fight alongside Assad’s forces.
Thousands of Revolutionary Guards troops have since been sent to Damascus, advising the president and even Russian forces on how to reclaim lost territory.
Even Lebanese authorities recently confirmed that the Iranian presence within Syria is “unprecedented,” with hundreds of soldiers, heavy weaponry, and military equipment being shipped from Tehran to Damascus each week.
A closer look at the names of Iranians who died in the Syrian fighting reveals that most of them are Revolutionary Guards forces affiliated with the Engineering Corps, the Artillery, and the Infantry. Despite Iran’s attempts at hiding their names from the media, it is becoming clearer and clearer that all of these men died while fighting for Assad.
Meanwhile, other Arab militias and proxies are also operating in Syria, with groups from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Iran’s aid, however, remains the most significant, with an estimated $10 billion to 20b. channeled between the two countries to date.
Despite this grim reality, I encourage you to worry not. After all, according to the Iranian minister, “Iran is not fighting in Syria.” What a relief.
– Mona Lisa Fariha
Hamas settles its position on Iran
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, January 15
A secret proposal was leaked this week, exposing an Iranian attempt to cajole Hamas into standing up against Saudi Arabia, in return for significant financial support to the Gaza-based organization.
Hamas responded to the offer this week and rejected it, claiming that it does not serve the interests of the organization. According to several Hamas officials, the proposal was rejected by none other than Khaled Mashaal, the head of the movement’s political bureau, who claimed that it would be “unwise” to intervene in the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
It should be noted that the Iranian assistance to Hamas was terminated over a year ago, due to the latter’s adverse stance on Tehran’s involvement the Syrian war.
There is no doubt that Hamas’s leadership understands the implications of its most recent decision.
Hamas personnel have been banned from entering or residing in Iran and Syria, and have lost a significant funding channel that came from Tehran. Following this rejection, Iran will likely try and punish Hamas even further.
However, most of the organization’s strategic interests are currently located in Sunni states: its leadership is located in the Gulf, its key officials reside in Turkey, and its land borders depend on Egypt. Choosing to take Iran’s side in this dispute would have likely complicated all of these factors, isolating the movement from its key partners.
Hamas’s leadership has to tread the fine line between the need for outside assistance and the fear of upsetting its regional allies. Just last month it called for a rapprochement in its relations with Iran, in a letter of condolences sent to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah following Samir Kuntar’s assassination. Now it seems to be taking a step back, with a more cautious stance on Iran’s offer. – Kafah Zabun
Has the Iranian regime really changed?
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, January 16
The Iranian regime has not changed a bit. Last week, a US Navy ship that accidentally entered Iranian territorial waters was intercepted and brought to shore.
Its crew members were interrogated and questioned.
To add salt to injury, the Iranian television was invited to document the event, depicting the seamen as they disembarked the vessel at gunpoint, apologizing for breaching Iranian sovereignty.
There is no doubt that this move was intentional.
Ships enter foreign territorial waters on a daily basis, and are usually simply asked to leave over radio communication.
The Iranian arrest was an orchestrated operation, designed to humiliate the United States – just days before the lifting of the sanctions on Iran.
It joins the burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, which took place only two weeks ago, in defiance of the international conventions that call to protect foreign diplomatic assets.
Just a week prior to that, Iran publicly tested a ballistic missile, despite agreeing to halt its intercontinental ballistic missile program in the nuclear deal.
Have no doubt: Iran would not have dared to react this way had the ship or the embassy been Russian. But the leadership in Tehran knew that the United States would refrain from responding.
The Iranian regime is unlike any other regime we know. The country is not controlled by a prime minister, or a president, or senior members of parliament.
It is under the complete control of the supreme leader, whose authority cannot be undermined, no matter how grave the situation is.
All of these developments cannot but leave us with the inevitable question: Has the Iranian regime really changed? – Abdulrahman al-Rashed