[Marxism] Iran looks for Arab allies against the West
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 20 11:15:38 MDT 2006
(Of course, the alliance that would make the most sense is one with the
Sunni fighters. If the people of the Arab world and Iran could somehow
overcome ancient theological differences and make this possible, that would
be a breakthrough against imperialism.)
from the April 20, 2006 edition -
Mideast 'axis' forms against West
Iran is forging closer ties with countries and groups in the Middle East
that share its hostility toward the US and Israel.
By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
BEIRUT, LEBANON - Rising tension between the West and Iran is coinciding
with the emergence of a loose anti-Western alliance - Israel now dubs it an
"axis of terror" - spanning the Middle East, presenting a new challenge to
the US's regional ambitions.
Centered on Iran, this alignment has hardened in recent months, analysts
say, with Tehran shoring up old alliances and strengthening ties with
countries (Syria and Iraq) and with groups (Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic
Jihad) that share its hostility toward Israel and the US.
"The alliance that is emerging in this part of the world is a creation of
Iran," says Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst. "It wants to bolster
its position by allying itself with countries or groups that can
temporarily enhance its regional role and influence."
On Tuesday, Israel's UN envoy Dan Gillerman dubbed this alliance the "new
axis of terror" following a suicide bombing claimed by the Iranian-funded
Islamic Jihad in Tel Aviv the previous day that killed nine Israelis.
"A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasizing as a
result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria, and the
newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority," Mr. Gillerman said.
The alliance, which is ad hoc and tactical rather than a formalized
strategic pact, includes Syria and groups such as Lebanon's Hizbullah, the
Iran-backed militant Shiite organization, radical Palestinian organizations
such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine-General Command as well as some Iraqi allies.
So far the strategy appears to be working in their favor. Hizbullah has
become one of the most influential players in Lebanon and looks set to
retain its military wing for the foreseeable future.
Iran has rarely appeared more resolute, boasting of its success in uranium
enrichment and expressing near daily defiance toward the US. Damascus is
gaining confidence with a slackening of international pressure lately amid
concerns that a collapse of Syria's Baathist regime could trigger
"The Syrians are very supportive of Iran and very supportive of Hamas and
Hizbullah," says Mr. Moubayed. "Almost everybody in Syria is praising
[Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad's alliance with Iran as a very smart
move. Many are saying that the alliance with [Iranian President Mahmoud]
Ahmadinejad was not political suicide after all."
Iran is the driving force behind the alliance, its strategic position in
the region enhanced by the US-led effort to oust Tehran's Taliban enemy in
Afghanistan to the east and its Baathist foe in Iraq to the west.
Over the weekend, Iran hosted a three-day conference in support of the
Palestinians, pledging $50 million to the newly elected Hamas government
and reaffirming its ties to other rejectionist Palestinian groups.
"This is an anti-America alliance," says Joshua Landis, professor of
history at the University of Oklahoma and author of Syriacomment.com, who
spent 2005 living in Damascus. "My guess is that the US will end up in a
weaker position than it started. The war on terror has alienated the Muslim
countries who now believe that America is the big bad ogre and specter of
A year ago, Syria's strategic position looked grim, having been forced to
disengage from neighboring Lebanon, ending 15 years of domination.
Hizbullah also was feeling the squeeze amid the departure of its Syrian
protector and a growing clamor for its disarmament from the party's
But the election in August of the confrontational Mr. Ahmadinejad as
president of Iran reinvigorated the long-standing relationship between
Tehran and Damascus. Syria is the geostrategic linchpin connecting Tehran
to its Lebanese protégé, Hizbullah, and was also regarded by Iran as the
weak link in the chain, one that required buttressing.
A newly emboldened Syria began to display greater defiance against
international pressure. In November, Mr. Assad asserted in a speech that
"the region [faces] two choices: either resistance and steadfastness or
chaos. There is no third choice.
"If they believe that they [the West] can blackmail Syria, we tell them
they got the wrong address," he said.
A series of Middle East elections also bolstered the emerging alliance. In
late December, Shiite factions close to Tehran dominated the Iraqi
elections. The following month, Hamas triumphed in the Palestinian
elections, granting Iran greater leverage in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.
In mid-January, Assad hosted a summit in Damascus with Ahmadinejad, the
Iranian president's first state visit. Also attending were the leaders of
Hizbullah and several anti-Israel Palestinian groups in what analysts
regarded as an affirmation of the anti-Western axis.
"The meeting between Ahmadinejad and Assad," commented Sateh Noureddine of
Lebanon's As Safir newspaper at the time, "did not come as a sign of
defeat, but rather as a joint warning to the world. A warning that the
alliance between the two neighbors is on its way to becoming stronger."
The alliance includes the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, who in visits to
Tehran and Damascus in January and February vowed to come to the defense
"by all possible means" of Iran and Syria if attacked by the US.
There is a commercial dimension, too. In February, Iran and Syria inked
sweeping economic and trade agreements including one establishing gas, oil,
railroad, and electrical links between Syria and Iran via Iraq. Both
countries are looking to the emerging economic powerhouses of Asia to build
new trade ties as an alternative to Europe and the West.
"Syria has been signing oil and gas contracts with India, China, and
Russia," says Mr. Landis, the Syria expert. "Syria and Iran are thinking
they can build Iraq into their northern tier, building gas and oil
pipelines across the region."
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