[Marxism] Iran Pact Threatens Assad

Louis Proyect 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 
militia Hezbollah.

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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