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The unholy alliance between Iran and Syria

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted February 22, 2005

The Middle East is a seething caldron that wrests the attention of the world. And, at the current time, Iran and Syria are the two most odious players in the region. Their sins are many, including constant efforts to enflame the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but let's focus upon the circumstances that directly affect our troops -- and our interests -- in Iraq. The struggling democracy of Iraq is flanked by Iran and Syria, which are aiding and abetting the flow of terrorists into Iraq, including al-Qaida operatives. And, of course, these terrorists, along with the Ba'athist insurgents, are generating mortal attacks upon coalition forces and the Iraqi people. Furthermore, ongoing guerrilla strikes are making "nation building" efforts, including the often cited training of Iraqi security forces, much more difficult. This, in turn, affects our ability to draw down the troops and bring them home. That being said, Americans have sufficient reasons to be furious with the tyrannical terror-states of Iran and Syria for their heinous actions in Iraq alone.

But, Iraq aside, these outlaw regimes are destabilizing the entire region in pivotal ways: Iran is developing nuclear weaponry, systematically gaming and refusing to halt its program; and as the premier terror state of the Middle East -- the most prolific supporter of terrorism -- it also lends a helping-hand to Hezbollah and a variety of other terror groups in the region. As for Syria, it has ensconced its troops in Lebanon for the past fifteen years, creating a suffocating occupation that is now being diligently protested by the Lebanese; and it provides funding, training and safe haven for Hamas and Hezbollah (and other) terrorists, which utilize southern Lebanon as a launching pad for attacks upon Israel.

Recently, Iran and Syria have vowed a "united front" against the political and economic pressures being brought to bear by the United States and other western nations. As noted by the Associated Press, "'In view of the special conditions faced by Syria, Iran will transfer its experience, especially concerning sanctions, to Syria', Mohammad Reza Aref, Iran's first vice president, was quoted as saying after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari". Collusion between these two terror states is nothing new. Iran and Syria have had a close cooperative relationship dating back more than twenty years with the advent of Iranian rule by fanatical cleric Ayatollah Khomeini and his establishment of the Hezbollah terror organization. Sure, Hezbollah has political and social service components operating in Syria, which are always underscored by European appeasers and Leftists. But Hezbollah clearly engages in vile terror activities as well. As scholar Michael Ledeen indicated in his book The War Against the Terror Masters, "Khomeini created one of the most dangerous international terrorist groups, Hezbollah, and Assad (Hafez al-Assad of Syria) supported it with many of the same favors". Both Iran and Syria continue to back Hezbollah terrorists that are surrogates for these rogue regimes.

Syria's has been subjected to mounting criticisms among members of the international community in recent months, with both the US and France sponsoring UN resolution 1559, which, in effect, called for Syrian occupation to come to an end, all militias to be withdrawn, and free and fair Lebanese elections to be effectuated. Many Lebanese blame last week's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Syrian elements, which has understandably resulted in robust protests in Lebanon against the Syrian occupation. Although the Syrians claim that they will soon enact withdrawal of their estimated 15,000 troops, in essence this remains a dubious proposition. The Syrians are dug-in in Lebanon for a host of economic, strategic and political reasons, as they benefit from the Lebanese "cash cow" and its border with Israel for the purpose of ongoing strikes. Hamas and Hezbollah have already indicated that they will continue to attack Israel from Lebanon despite the U.N. resolution. Moreover, as noted by journalist George Will on the ABC Sunday morning program, Syria apparently believes in the myth of Lebanon as "greater Syria", which causes Syrians to possess a sense of entitlement to Lebanese territories. All things considered, the situation in Lebanon appears poised to escalate.

During his current overseas trip, President Bush is engaging in rapprochement and "fence mending" with Europeans, meeting with European and NATO leaders in efforts to strengthen alliances. Bush has told Europeans that: "the deepest values and interests of America and Europe are the same: defeating terrorism, conquering poverty, expanding trade and promoting peace". Particularly regarding this global war on terror, European cooperation is crucial. And Bush urged Europeans to stand by fledgling democracies, and those nations seeking to be free. He further underscored that "The Lebanese people have the right to be free" and that Syria must withdraw forces from Lebanon. The ambassador to Syria had already been recalled to Washington, DC, for consultations regarding the crisis circumstances in Lebanon.

Personally, I'm short-term pessimistic, long-term optimistic regarding progress in the Middle East. Although, President Bush has articulated the view that diplomacy and sanctions are the desired methods to bring about needed change, he also noted that the military option will always remain on the table. Both Iran and Syria are tough and unyielding, which certainly argues for the possibility of limited military action (i.e. air strikes) to obtain sought after results. As to Iran's nuclear ambitions, even Vice President Dick Cheney broached the "Israel might act first" issue on the Don Imus radio program, when he stated: "Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked…If, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had a significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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