Iran, Not Arabs, Holds the Cards in Gaza and Syria

Article Summary
The conflicts in both Gaza and Syria reveal that Iran remains the key power broker, and there will be no solution in either without Tehran’s say, writes Imad Marmal.

While Israel pushed for a military strike aimed at putting an end to Iran’s nuclear program, Palestinian rockets, some of which bore the fingerprints of Iranian manufacture or expertise, rained down upon Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in a clear sign from Tehran that “the axis of resistance and opposition remained an indivisible whole” to which it would contribute “elements of strength, fortifying its components that stretch from the resistance in Palestine, to Hezbollah in Lebanon and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.”

The irony here is that the Arabs, who reject Iran’s role in the region and complain about its strategic spread to Gaza, contented themselves with issuing a modest statement during the recent foreign minister’s meeting in Cairo held under the auspices of the presumed revolutionary spring. The statement was verbally preceded by confessions of weakness on the part of some of the ministers who admitted to a lack of resolve, and limited their ambitions to offering financial and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, as if the Arab League was but a division of the Red Crescent organization or a wailing wall upon which people come to lament the Palestinian cause.

The paradox is that some Arab countries are themselves responsible for the present vacuum. It has been engendered by their inability or unwillingness to supply the Palestinians with means that would empower them, while unashamedly objecting to Iran’s behavior aimed at filling that same void with any available military means.

If that artery that spreads through the seas and tunnels to replenish Gaza from Tehran has bolstered Iran’s influence in the region and endangered Arab national security — as those who fear “Persian aspirations” put it — then instead of criticizing Iran they should strip her of the initiative and fulfill the role it is playing by truly and effectively backing the Palestinian resistance, thus regaining their natural role in the conflict with Israel.

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In addition to their material effect, Iranian military capabilities reaching Gaza play another role in this time of deep polarization. They prove that the conflict with Israel can transcend ever-increasing sectarian barriers and fears, whereby the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran does not hesitate to offer support to the Sunni Palestinian resistance movements in their fight with the common enemy.

In keeping with the premise of “safeguarding the links of resistance and opposition.” just as its opponents defend their allies, Iran continues to defend President Assad’s regime while keeping dialogue open with his internal opponents, some of whom it hosted lately in the context of the Syrian National Dialogue conference [in Tehran].

Widely knowledgeable Iranian sources confirmed that President Assad “would not fall by force, no matter the time frame.”

Just as 20 months have passed since the crisis began without Assad’s ouster, 20 more months could pass without him leaving. It is high time for some people to change their losing wagers and stop deluding themselves now that it has been proven that the opposition and all its regional and international allies were incapable of toppling the regime by force.

The Iranian sources stressed that Syria “is a vital part of the resistance and opposition front, and Iran would not stand idly by and watch it face explicit attacks by foreign countries whose aim is to change its strategic choices and vital role in the region. And Tehran is unapologetic for giving Damascus political and economic support in the face of the multi-faceted conspiracy targeting it.”

The same sources considered that Assad’s regime “still enjoyed the support of the majority of Syrians, and if others really wanted to adopt democratic measures in Syria, they should abide by democracy’s clear and simple mechanisms which necessitate the holding of elections that would reflect the people’s true will.”

Based on this tenet, the prominent Iranian sources stressed the fact that a political solution in Syria “lies in the holding of fair presidential elections at the end of Assad’s mandate in 2014, the results of which would be accepted by all,” the source said.

“And if the opposition believes that elections organized under the present regime would be unfair and have forgone outcomes, then discussions could be held to guarantee honest elections that would garnet the acceptance of all parties. The most important aspect is to abide by the concept of resorting to elections as a way out of the crisis, at which point it would be possible to discuss guarantees related to the practical aspect of things.”

The source cautioned that the attempt to overthrow the Syrian regime, with outside pressure and by force, despite the will of the popular majority “represented a dangerous precedent that cannot be accepted. Otherwise, what would prevent any nation from demanding the ouster of a regime with which it differed, just because it did not like said regime, and attempt to form a force with which to exercise pressure on it to leave, thereby bypassing its representative and legitimate internal status, as is currently the case of Syria, against which stands a grouping of states working to advance their own agendas.”

The sources therefore pointed out that Tehran’s refusal to allow Assad’s ouster by force in order to fulfill the wishes of foreign countries “is a matter of principle related to the safeguarding of regional and international stability.”

The Iranian sources also considered that it would have been better for the Americans to have learned from their failed occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and their duplicitous cooperation in Israel’s war against Lebanon in 2006. In their place, we would have drawn valuable lessons from these events, for it is certain that Washington and its allies have reached a dead end in Syria, and they must realize this fact in order to limit their losses.

The sources also considered that the problem lies in that some armed groups and the countries that supply them with funds and arms “have failed to reach this realization; and the war in Syria would end once these factions understand that toppling the Syrian regime by force is impossible and that the only available option is to resort to the ballot boxes and not the ammunition cases.”

The same sources pointed out that the confrontation would have already ended had the armed groups in Syria not been supplied by outside sources. They also warned that the crisis would drag on as along as those supplies continued to flow.

But that did not mean that the regime’s foes had any chance of succeeding in changing the regime, and therefore, the costs associated with continuing the war “would be irrational and everyone would discover that there is no other option than to return to the negotiating table.”

The sources went on to state that unifying the opposition factions, regardless of their affiliations “would help in securing better conditions for dialogue because there would be a single entity with which to negotiate, as is the case with the regime, instead of each faction looking to protect its own narrow interests.”

The sources also stressed that Russia’s position rejecting the overthrow of the regime through internal force or external pressure “was a strategic and not a tactical one,” and it should be viewed in this context without delusions that it could be changed or bartered away at the expense of the [Syrian] regime.

The sources asserted that the ever expanding and all-encompassing sanctions against Iran would not affect Tehran’s resolve and stance relating to its nuclear program, the Syrian crisis, the Palestinian cause, or the resistance option. While it is true that some sanctions have proven to be harsh, it is also true that the Iranian leadership is adapting and adopting adequate alternatives.

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Found in: iranian economic sanctions, iran, gaza
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