Syria and the Iranian curse
History repeats itself, as is well known. Four years ago, the United States was engaged in long and tough negotiations with Iran about its nuclear programme. Not only was a deal struck in 2015 but also Iran got Syria as a bonus. Today Washington is back to negotiating with Tehran about the same programme, but this time Syria is an Iranian playing card, not an American one.
The Syrian crisis has become the topic of a new series of negotiations. However, these negotiations are not looking at the crisis as requiring an independent solution but rather as one item of the overall Iran v the West conflict. The parties sitting around today’s negotiation tables are the same ones as in 2015, with one major difference. Israel, which was an essential but hidden party then, is now occupying the guest of honour seat.
To be part of Tehran’s wars in the region is the Iranian curse that has befallen the poor Syrians ever since Damascus decided to join the so-called “axis of resistance,” or to put it more accurately, the “axis of compromise.” Ever since that day, their lives and their country have become at the service of the rule of the Faqih. With the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011, Bashar Assad’s supporters were being sacrificed to turn Iran’s occupation of Syria into reality. As to the opposition, Iran used its members’ blood to write its deals with the West.
During their mini-summit meeting in Jerusalem, the Russians, Americans and Israelis discussed how to lift the Iranian curse off of Syria, not how to end the Syrian crisis. That same goal was also the priority of the Americans and the Europeans in the Paris and Brussels meetings. What all these parties are concerned about today is how to get rid of Iran in the region, for the sake of Israel first and for the sake of their interests next.
The Iranian curse in the region began in 1979, with Western silence and America’s blessing. It has spread to many places, including Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. The Iranian “revolution,” which US President Donald Trump has vowed to stop the exportation of abroad, is now in control of four Arab capitals. For that we have his predecessors to thank, from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama.
Realistically and in a nutshell, it is in the interest of the Syrians to rid themselves of the Iranian curse, even though that is not the only impediment to ending their crisis. The matter, however, requires much more than Russia’s cooperation in curbing Tehran’s military influence in Syria, assuming of course that Russia sees the West as a better ally than Tehran in the first place.
It is true that Moscow views Israel as the West’s holy covenant that must be protected come what may, and it is true that the Russians have a vested interest in expelling Iran from Syria and taking over its spoils there. But persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to join the war against Iran, if it takes place, will be very costly to Washington, Brussels and Tel Aviv.
Iran’s curse on the Syrians involves far more than the soldiers and military equipment that were sent to Syria after 2011. There are also the droves of Iranian merchants who settled there and created their own private economic empires. Iran can now boast about having Syrian politicians, parliamentarians, professors and officers who are more loyal to it than to their own country. What Iran has done in Syria is create deep rifts in the moral, demographic and cultural fibres of Syrian society that no Russian radars can pick up or Israeli bombardment can reach.
It’s not being pessimistic to bring up the topic of the Iranian curse while meetings that are looking at the Syrian crisis are going on; it’s just that we must not be too optimistic either. The West’s war with Iran is going to be long, and whether it represents a scam to blackmail the region and the world as some have said or the West’s awakening to the danger of a terrorist state, as Trump recently described it, Iran’s curse on the Syrians will not end in a few years and will never end as long as the Assads remain at the helm in Syria.