November 27, 2007

PRISON WIFE TO THE AYATOLLAHS:

Syria a nation of contradictions: Although allied with Iran, its people admire the West. Damascus has its own agenda for peace talks (Borzou Daragahi, 11/27/07, Los Angeles Times)

Syrian officials and analysts speak bitterly of what they call an abandonment of their country by the West they admire. Iran, most admit, is an uncomfortable fit for their nation, which once used to enjoy cozy relations with the West, especially Europe, and with other Arab countries.

The Syrian government has for decades been fighting Islamic militants, some of them linked to Al Qaeda. But relations between Syria and much of the rest of the world soured over Damascus' ties to other militant groups in the region, including those opposed to Israel and the pro-Western government in Lebanon.

Syria has long had close ties with Tehran, strengthened when the government here backed the Islamic Republic during the bitter Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. But Syria's international isolation now has highlighted its connection to Iran.

"The alliance between Syria and Iran is not something new," said a European diplomat in Damascus, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The real thing which has changed is that it's no longer a relationship between two partners with equal weight, but it has shifted to an unequal relationship. It doesn't mean Syria wants what Iran wants."

In fact, though Damascus and Tehran share some of the same general strategic goals, such as confronting Israel, they diverge starkly over the details.

They find themselves on opposite sides in the simmering Shiite-Sunni conflict in Iraq. Tehran backs Shiite allies who dominate the government in Baghdad. Damascus provides a haven for former followers of Saddam Hussein's secular regime -- including, U.S. military officials say, insurgents fighting the Iraqi government.

"Syria and Iran have very few things they agree on for Iraq; they have very different agendas for the post-Saddam regime," said Sami Moubayed, a Damascus political analyst and journalist. "But Syria can't oppose Iran because Iran is Syria's No. 1 friend nowadays."


There's no room in the Shi'a Crescent for the Ba'athists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2007 8:47 AM
Comments

Damascus and Tehran share some of the same general strategic goals, such as confronting Israel... But Israel chooses to teach Tehran a lesson by bombing Damascus.

Posted by: ic at November 27, 2007 4:27 PM
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