Assad loses Iran's trust after surprise withdrawal from Lebanon
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, August 30, 2005
For years, Iran and Syria were the closest of allies. Today, their
relations are fraught with deep suspicion and several strategic
projects have been scaled down.
Western intelligence sources said Iran no longer trusts Syrian
President Bashar Assad and his regime. Iran sees Assad as weak and
susceptible to Western and particularly U.S. pressure.
Assad visited Teheran several weeks ago in an effort to improve
relations. But sources said the Syrian president was given a cool
reception. Iran has been quietly promoting alternatives to Assad,
including members of his family deemed as more capable of resisting
U.S. pressure, the sources said.
Iran has long distrusted Assad. But relations plunged when Assad
ordered the military withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005. Sources
said Assad's decision was taken without consultation with Teheran and
left Iran, with several hundred military operatives in Lebanon, in a
Iran was concerned that the Syrian pullout would also leave Hizbullah
susceptible to an effort by the Lebanese government to dismantle the
Shi'ite insurgency group. Hizbullah is Iran's leading tool to strike
its adversaries, particularly Israel and the United States.
The high-handed Iranian approach resulted in a slowdown in joint
strategic programs with Damascus. Joint missile development and
production have been stalled as Iran has found more reliable and
Syria also owes Iran money and favors for previous technology transfers.
Iran's supreme leader Khameini and his new President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad do not plan to sever strategic relations with the Assad
regime; that's not how Iran works. Instead, Iran was expected to keep
relations with Syria on a low-burner as Teheran quietly reaches out
directly to the European Union and the United States.
Syria's concern is that Iran has already reached agreement with the
United States on a deal that would reduce Washington's pressure on
Teheran's nuclear weapons program. The purported deal would guarantee
Iranian support to help quell the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Assad has
been the leading supporter of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.
"Over the past few years and despite the rhetoric, Iran has followed a
very pragmatic foreign policy," stated Marwan Al Kabalan, a lecturer in
media and international relations at Damascus University.
"It adapted quickly to the changes in the international system and
reaped the profit in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is looking today for a
deal with the West to resume its nuclear program," he wrote in an
analysis. "Isn't it wiser for Syria to follow the lead, stop relying on
unreliable regional alliances and adjust its policies to the post-9/11