Syria’s Reality and Iran’s National Interests

17 November 2012 | 21:47 Code : 1909271 Review General category
An essay by Mohammad Ali Sobhani, Iran’s former ambassador to Jordan and Lebanon
Syria’s Reality and Iran’s National Interests

 

While the unrest in Syria is entering its twentieth month, a few new developments have taken the crisis in this country into a new stage. Border conflicts with Israel, the Doha Conference, formation of a new coalition of the opposition and the re-election of Obama are among the most important developments. In this essay, the impacts of each one of them on the situation in Syria will be studied.

Border Conflicts with Israel

During the past few days, conflicts have occurred in the border between Syria and Israel. Since the 1973 war, this exchange of fire between these two countries has been unprecedented. Last Saturday, the Israeli army announced that warning bullets were fired at Syria. This measure was taken after a mortar shell from Syria hit an Israeli watch post in the Golan Heights. Although the Golan Heights are considered a part of Syria's territory, this area has been occupied by Israeli forces during the past 45 years. Although Israel has called these conflicts a warning, it seems that they are gifts for Bashar Assad, for during the past few months, both Israel and Bashar Assad have been attacked by public opinion in Arab countries; such a conflict between Israel and Syria can certainly be to Bashar Assad’s benefit and reduce the pressure and sensitivity of public opinion, which have been caused by violence in the country, against his government. 

The Doha Conference and the New Opposition Coalition

The 4-day Doha Conference resulted in the formation of a new coalition called "National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces” and the selection of Moaz al-Khatib as the leader of this coalition. Although the details of these negotiations and agreements have not accurately been revealed, it can be interpreted that this event is the beginning of a big step.

When the developments in Syria are compared with the developments of other countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, it can be comprehended that two issues have prevented the rapid victory of the opposition; one is the cohesiveness of Bashar Assad’s military forces and the other the existing differences between his opposition forces. Despite various attempts, the cohesiveness of Bashar Assad’s suppressing forces has remained intact. At the same time, it seems that efforts have been made to solve the differences between the opposition and create collective unity among them. Formation of this coalition and the selection of a new leader can be assessed in this path. Moaz al-Khatib, the new leader of the opposition forces, has, for many years, been the prayer leader of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, and three months ago, he was deported from Syria and is known as a moderate figure. His two deputies are Riad Seif, a prominent opposition member, and Suheir Atassi, a famous non-religious activist. It seems that the leading team of this coalition is designed in a manner that can be recognized as the voice of the Syrian opposition. 

Explicit support of Arab and European countries in yesterday’s joint meeting in Cairo, and also the US’ welcoming of this event can be considered as signs of these attempts. US, France, Turkey and Arab States of the Persian Gulf have gone beyond this point and have officially recognized this coalition as the legitimate representative of the people of Syria. It seems that these attempts will continue and if this coalition succeeds in forming a cohesive and trusted group to lead Assad opponents, it will enjoy serious financial and arms support from these countries.

Therefore, contrary to some analysis based on the assumption that Assad would be able to end the crisis in this country through suppression of the opposition and with the support of Russia and China in the Security Council, it seems that the dimensions of the crisis are expanding day by day and the determination of Arab and Western countries to topple Assad is revealing itself more than the past.

In case of more support from western countries, continuation of Bashar Assad's government will become more difficult. It is true that Russia and China prevented the adoption of a resolution against Assad's government in the Security Council, but what is clear is that these two countries do not seek war against the West over the issue of Syria. And when western countries succeed in changing the balance to Bashar Assad’s disadvantage by equipping the opposition, Russia and China will reach a compromise with them.

Nevertheless, the formation of a new coalition and it being recognized by Arab and Western countries mean that Assad's opponents will receive money and equipment from these countries more than before. Assad's opponents need to receive anti-tank and anti-aircraft armaments which they will probably receive in this new situation.

The US Election

What is clear is that the US election, for a while, reduced this country's ability to actively participate in the international scene. With the re-election of Obama, it seems that his foreign policy team will follow a more active diplomacy in international issues, particularly, in the Syrian crisis. 

It is true that if the Republicans had won the election, the possibility of enforcing military force and coercion with regard to Syria would have increased, but the Democrats exert more pressure on the government of Syria by using a soft and multilateral approach.

The art of the Democrats is that they have been able to unite the world with regard to different issues and on the basis of their own outlook. In other words, in the international scene, they are more able to create allies because their literature is closer to the international literature. If we study the polls in countries other than the US, we will find out that the public view of the people of the world was more in line with Obama's outlook. This means that Obama knows the language of today's world better and his soft approach has better led to the achievement of US goals. The fact that Arab and European countries have been involved in Syria is a sign of the US’ active diplomacy which attempts to involve different countries in international crises.

The same is true with regard to Iran. Certainly, if Iran intends to solve its problems with the international system, Obama provides an appropriate opportunity for this approach. But if an approach of confrontation is to be followed, the Republicans would have been more advantageous for Iran, for they have less ability to create consensus. Democrats put more emphasis on the civil rights and freedoms and this issue has a greater impact on the public opinion of the world. Therefore, Obama's power to mobilize and organize international forces against Iran is more than the Republicans, thus, a decision in this regard must be made carefully. 

Iran has not yet taken a position with regard to the formation of the new coalition, and it seems that by studying the new situation which has been formed in the international and regional atmosphere, it must, soon and within the next few days, make a decision about the situation in Syria. It is hoped that the officials responsible will carefully study the facts of the new conditions and make the right decisions in line with the national interests of our country. 

tags: syria coalition assad


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