Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

A Hard Reckoning

February 25, 2013 3:35 am 0 comments

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shaking hands. Photo: wiki commons.

This article by Shoshana Bryen was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Bashar Assad faces a hard reckoning. Not the one that comes from rebels battling for control of key Syrian assets, or the one that may come some day from charges of genocide at the International Criminal Court. The reckoning that comes from understanding that your key ally, Iran, has interests in your country other than you, and regional interests bigger than you.

Iran connects with a variety of countries and non-state actors to advance its worldwide interests; Assad’s Syria is only part of the equation. Iran continues to supply the Syrian army and has military forces of its own there, but Iran is also moving to protect and preserve its Mediterranean proxy Hezbollah. Weapons are already moving into Hezbollah hands in Lebanon, which may have prompted an Israeli air strike late last month. Iranian and Hezbollah commanders appear to be building militias within Syria to retain a presence if Assad falls or leaves the country. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen said Iranian and Hezbollah commanders oversee the Jaysh fighters, one of many groups that have sprung up as Syria disintegrates. In response, Syrian rebel forces are threatening to take the fight to Hezbollah directly, but the revelation means Syria may be on the path to resemble the morass of Lebanon during the 1970s.

A little history helps here.

The Alawite minority that has ruled Syria for decades is not of the Shiite mainstream; Alawites have been called “idol worshippers” — the worst possible sobriquet — by some Shiite religious authorities. For the details see Martin Kramer, but the short form is that a marriage of convenience began in the 1970s between Hafez Assad, by most accounts a more clever despot than his son, and Iranian Shiite religious leaders. It expanded after the Iranian Revolution brought those religious leaders to power, and it continues to this day. In the early days of the Iran-Iraq war, Assad did side with fellow secular Ba’athist Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But by 1982 (some sources put the timing after the Syrian massacre of 20-35,000 Sunnis in Hama to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood) relations between the two soured, leaving an opening for improved Syrian-Iranian ties.

According to CIA reports of the time, Iran and Syria agreed that Syria would close the Iraqi pipeline through its territory in exchange for subsidized Iranian oil. Shortly thereafter, Iran was known to have sent 2,000 Iranian Guard Corps troops to Syria and from there to Lebanon in support of Hezbollah, which was just emerging as a power center after the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war. Syria has been a passageway for Iranian arms to Hezbollah, both by sea, and through the Damascus airport and overland, giving Iran influence in the internal affairs of Lebanon as Hezbollah continued to grow, particularly after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

After the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the expanded UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon was tasked with ensuring that only weapons of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) were south of the Litani River; this should have meant disarming Hezbollah, but the mandate of UN Resolution 1701 did not include guarding or even monitoring the Syria-Lebanon border. Iranian arms shipments continued apace and in 2011, Hezbollah became the dominant member of the Lebanese Government.

Whatever the fate of Bashar Assad, Iran is unlikely to abandon its investment in Hezbollah or in other Syrian groups, but Iran’s interests go well beyond the Syria/Hezbollah axis. Iranian influence in predominantly Shiite Iraq continues to grow and there are reports of Iran building Iraqi Hezbollah militias as the security situation continues to deteriorate since the American departure in 2011.

Iranian warships have been docking in Sudan, where it appears that in December, Israel destroyed a missile depot housing Iranian Fajr-5 rockets destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Iranian warships returned to Sudan later that month.

Iran’s relationship with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been well documented. But in the late 1980s and 1990s, Argentina sold Iran nuclear materials and modified an Iranian nuclear reactor. Relations were cut short after Iran was implicated in the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires. Trade relations were never halted though, and of late, Argentina’s sales of agricultural products to Iran have made it Iran’s 7th largest trading partner. The assumption is that Iran will pay for commodities it sorely needs with oil that it cannot sell owing to Western sanctions, which Argentina ignores. Most recently, Argentina invited Iran — a key suspect in the bombings — to participate in a “truth commission” to investigate the bombings, a decision Israel and others have loudly protested. Iranian television claims the “political problems” are in the past.

In 2012, former German defense official Hans Ruehle said North Korea was testing Iranian nuclear weapons. An Iranian observer appears to have been in North Korea for the nuclear test that occurred earlier this month.

Understanding that Iran has interests around the world, and that those interests go beyond preserving his autocratic regime should be a hard reckoning for Bashar Assad, who has been loyal to the Mullahs and their agenda.

Understanding the same thing would be a hard reckoning for the United States, which has focused rhetorical attention on the Iranian nuclear program, but has utterly failed to see Iranian activities spread openly across the globe.

This article by Shoshana Bryen was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: wiki commons.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →