[Marxism] Iran Pact Threatens Assad
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 9 06:50:45 MDT 2015
Wall Street Journal, Apr. 9 2015
Iran Pact Threatens Assad --- As Tehran focuses on finalizing agreement
to lift sanctions, Syrian leader risks losing key ally
By Sam Dagher
BEIRUT -- Like Israel and Saudi Arabia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
has his own reasons to be worried about Iran's framework nuclear
agreement with the U.S. and other world powers.
On the face of it, the prospect of a final accord that would lift some
international sanctions against Iran is good news for Mr. Assad and his
regime, which depend on billions of dollars in support from Tehran. Add
to that the direct and substantial military support Mr. Assad receives
from Iran's most powerful proxy force in the region, the Lebanese Shiite
But prospects look dimmer for Mr. Assad if a nuclear agreement opens the
door to a broader rapprochement with Iran over its role in Syria and
what the Obama administration views as the Islamic Republic's other
destabilizing activities in the region, according to diplomats and analysts.
Iran and Russia, which also provides Mr. Assad with significant
diplomatic, political and military support, are willing to envision a
solution to the four-year-old conflict in Syria that eventually eases
him out of power while safeguarding their own strategic interests in the
country, according to people familiar with details of current Syria
Publicly, Iran and Russia have long maintained that it is up to Syrians
to decide the fate of Mr. Assad. But in recent days, there have been
hints that they might need to consider alternative scenarios.
"Everyone realizes that the situation has changed a lot and now involves
even more angles and complexities," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Monday.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a terse statement last week welcoming
the framework deal between Iran and the U.S. and praising Iran's
"scientific achievements." Syrian regime officials have repeatedly
portrayed the bond with their two main allies, Iran and Russia, as
An Iranian alliance with Syria based on ties with Mr. Assad and his
ruling Shiite-linked Alawite minority has become increasingly expensive
and untenable, Syria experts say. At the same time, Tehran wants any
future government in Syria to help safeguard its influence in Iraq and
"I have no doubt in my mind that for Iran and Hezbollah, Assad is
expendable and his fate negotiable as long as the political settlement
preserves the regime infrastructure and support for the resistance
axis," said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the
London School of Economics and Political Science, referring to the
Iran-led regional alliance that includes Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
In a reflection of growing fears among Mr. Assad's supporters that an
Iran nuclear deal could ultimately come at their leader's expense,
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah sought Monday to allay their worries.
"Iran has never abandoned its allies or sold them out," Mr. Nasrallah
told a Syrian news channel.
As Moscow hosts a second round of talks this week between
representatives of Mr. Assad's regime and some members of the
opposition, Syria is in a state of collapse. Four years into a war that
has killed more than 215,000 people, displaced millions and destroyed
much of the economy and infrastructure, Syria itself is barely
recognizable as a country.
Although Mr. Assad and his allies control the capital, Damascus, and
much of central and western Syria, they are losing ground in the south
and north. Kurds have carved out a self-rule zone in the northeast while
most opposition-held territory is in the hands of Sunni Islamist groups
including Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
Qadri Jamil, a former Syrian deputy prime minister, said the main
parties to the fighting have wearied of it. "The economic situation [in
Syria] is very bad, and there is a limit to how much Iran or any other
country can do or withstand," Mr. Jamil said in a telephone interview
from Moscow. "On the battlefront, there is attack and retreat and hopes
for a decisive victory have evaporated, so everyone in principle is
searching for a face-saving political solution."
Mr. Jamil and others say Secretary of State John Kerry was acknowledging
the need for new approaches to ending the war when he told CBS News last
month that any negotiated political settlement in Syria would involve
talking with Mr. Assad and his regime.
"Although the substance of what Kerry said was that, 'We need to talk to
Bashar al-Assad about his departure,' the tone is new," said a senior
European diplomat involved in Syria policy. The diplomat noted that Mr.
Kerry's comments on the Syrian leader for the first time didn't include
the demand he must step down.
Yet even if a nuclear deal with Tehran leads to fresh attempts to end
the fighting in Syria, such an effort faces formidable obstacles.
Sunni-led Saudi Arabia says its campaign in Yemen is the start of a new
push to roll back Shiite Iran's reach into the Arab world. And many
inside and outside Syria would never agree to Mr. Assad being part of a
peace settlement, even a transitional one, because they see him as the
prime cause of much of the country's suffering.
Another obstacle is Mr. Assad himself. Even if Iran and Hezbollah decide
to help ease him from power, their influence on him isn't boundless.
Their support is "critical and pivotal" for Mr. Assad's survival, but
there is a limit to how much pressure these allies can put on him within
the framework of a potential political settlement, Mr. Gerges said.
"If Assad realizes his future is on the line, he would not listen to
Hezbollah and Iran. He will fight," Mr. Gerges said.
With the help of Iran, Russia and other allies, Mr. Assad continues to
project himself as Syria's only legitimate governing authority even as
he positions himself as an indispensable member of the international
Mr. Assad has signaled to Europe and the U.S. that they must deal with
him if they want to combat Islamic State and prevent further blowback
from jihadists in Syria and other countries.
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