jump to navigation

Syria: Turkey v. Iran 26 août 2011

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient.
Tags: , , , ,

New York Post (USA) August 26, 2011

By Amir Taheri

Now in its sixth month, the Syrian uprising is developing into a power struggle between regional rivals Turkey and Iran.

After hesitating, Turkey appears to have determined that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad can no longer stand. In recent weeks, it has hosted conferences creating an interim Syrian “parliament” to prepare for a democratic transition. The Turks have also expressed support for new European Union sanctions on Syria, including an embargo on oil and gas imports.

Turkey has some leverage: As Syria’s largest investor, with investments of more than $25 billion, it has asked its business interests to hold off on new capital infusions.

Ankara wants Assad to step down in favor of a caretaker reform government, a position backed by several regional powers, notably Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies. The European Union, too, appears to want Turkey to take the lead on Syria.

Iran, however, stands dead set against the scheme. Over the last decade, Syria has become more of a client state than an ally.

Iran has kept Syria’s moribund economy alive with frequent cash injection and investments thought to be worth $20 billion, and also gives Syria “gifts,” including weapons worth $150 million a year. Tehran sources even claim that key members of Assad’s entourage are on the Iranian payroll.

During Bashar’s presidency, the Iranian presence has grown massively. Iran has opened 14 cultural offices across Syria, largely to propagate its brand of Shiite Islam. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also runs a “coordination office” in Damascus staffed by 400 military experts, and Syria is the only Mediterranean nation to offer the Iranian navy mooring rights.

The two countries have signed a pact committing them to “mutual defense.” Syria and North Korea are the only two countries with which Iran holds annual conferences of chiefs of staff.

Until last June, the Tehran leadership appeared to be of two minds about the Assad regime. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi suggested publicly that the regime might “need to listen to the Syrian people.” The foreign ministry obtained a “temporary halt” in travel to Syria.

But now “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei apparently has decided to throw Iran’s weight behind Assad. “We cannot allow plotters to succeed in Syria,” the daily Kayhan, which expresses Khamenei’s views, said in an editorial this week. “Those targeting Syria are, in fact, targeting the Islamic Revolution in Iran.” The paper also warned: “Turkey must know that the Islamic Republic will use all means at its disposal to ensure the failure of plots against Syria.”

The implicit threat is that Tehran would reactivate terrorist groups fighting Turkey. In fact, Tehran has already lifted a ban on movements by armed elements of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which fights for an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey and operates the mountainous area at the intersection of the borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

Iran is trying hard to mobilize regional support for Assad, but its only ally on this is the Hezbollah-backed Lebanese government.

Iranian pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has so far failed to persuade Baghdad to back Assad — and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has demanded that Assad leave office.

Several Arab countries are sitting on the fence because they believe that, without solid US support, the Turkish transition strategy lacks credibility.

Jordan would dearly like to see the back of Assad, whose father tried to assassinate King Hussein, the father of current King Abdullah. Iraq, too, having gotten rid of Ba’athist Saddam Hussein, would love to see Syria’s Ba’athist regime toppled. But both countries worry that prolonged turmoil in Syria could produce a flood of refugees that they couldn’t handle without support from major powers, especially America.

Egypt, emerging from its own despotic nightmare, would also welcome Assad’s fall. But it, too, worries about confusing signals from Washington.

The Arab Spring has provided a chance to reshape the Mideast. The question is who will benefit — and how.


No comments yet — be the first.

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :