Iran in Arab turmoil may spell trouble for Israel

The US is calling for sanctions against Syria and accuses President Assad of turning to Iran in a way that could unite the two against Washington’s closest ally in the region – Israel.

­Some like it hot, but this spring things have heated up perhaps too much in the Arab world.

Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and now Syria. More than 60 people died during the “Day of Rage” in Syria, as police used their full force against anti-government protesters.

Human rights activists reported troops opening fire and using tear gas on people rallying after Friday prayers. Most of the casualties were in the city of Deraa, which has been under blockade since Monday.

The UN has given the green light to an investigation into Syria's bloody crackdowns on demonstrations. It is demanding the regime releases political prisoners and lifts media restrictions.

The United States is imposing sanctions targeting top Syrian officials. Barack Obama has also authorized sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

The Northern African region and the Middle East are engulfed in brutal civil wars, with the western powers playing an important hand. Some believe this will not stop any time soon and that Arab uprisings have the potential for spreading further east.

And it is easy to guess who is next in line for the great upheaval in the region.

“President Assad is disingenuously blaming outsiders, while at the same time seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syrian citizens,” said Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN.

This may just be a thinly veiled hint at where exactly the United States is looking to get involved.

“I think Iran has been targeted for some time, and if you watch the propaganda about Syria, Washington is now claiming that Iran is helping Syria oppress the protesters,” says Paul Craig Roberts, a former Reagan administration official. “What's different about Syria and Iran about the protest is that in both cases we know for a fact that the United States government was supporting opposition groups. And so it's only in those two countries where Washington has an interest in intervening.”

Tehran has been in a long-standing alliance with Syria in this strategically important region, right next to Iran's arch-nemesis, Israel.

“Syria isn't the same as Libya geopolitically,” says Sergey Voronin, professor at the Peoples' Friendship University. “We've always realized that Syria is Iran's springboard in its fight against Israel. This is why it will eventually make a powerful synergetic impact on Iran's positions. This brings us back to the question: which country will follow Syria? If events in Syria progress according to the Libyan scenario, we will probably see a similar development in Iran, unfortunately. That is, Iran will repeat the Syrian scenario.”

Iranian ships have dropped anchor in Syrian ports in nervous proximity to Tel Aviv. With Damascus crippled by crisis, Iran may lose its footing in the region.

“This is, again, a continuation of the idea that you use the international machinery to achieve your national objectives under the pretext that you're actually trying to protect human rights,” says Sabah al-Mukhtar, president of the Arab Lawyers Association.

Should the US and its allies decide to go through with the habit of meddling in aiding revolutionary forces in the region, the result may be catastrophic.

“If there's foreign intervention in Syria, yes, Iran's intervention in response is a definite and very real possibility, just as much as it interfered in Iraq when the US invaded that country,” said James Denselow, a writer on Middle East politics and security issues.

And if suspicions prove true, the world may be in for an entirely different ball game, if Iran and the US get involved in a very real hot confrontation.

Lode Vanoost, former Deputy Speaker of the Belgian parliament thinks that Iran’s involvement in the conflict is going to jeopardize Israel’s whole policy within the Middle East.

“So far [Israelis] have been supported by all these dictatorial regimes, in Egypt, all over the place,” he said. “In the short run this is good for Israel. Nobody is paying attention that the occupation, the settlements are going on, that the repression of Palestinian people keeps going on. In the long run this is going to be problematic indeed.”

“Syria and Iran have been allies for a long [time],” he added. “It’s pretty obvious if they get into trouble in Damascus, they are going to look for support elsewhere.”

­Barah Mikail, an expert on the Middle East, doubts that the West will interfere in Syria the way they did in Libya. He believes there will be a fresh freezing of assets, and other economic sanctions, but that will not lead to military intervention in the current circumstances.

“Obviously what we can see is that the Syrian case is by far different from the Libyan case,” he said. “We have two fundamental points. On the one hand, the coalition that is engaged in Libya doesn’t want to open a new front in Syria, which could also turn into a fiasco. The other important point is that Syria is a very sensitive country. And that is why by acting or pressuring Syria, the risk would be to radicalize Syria’s allies and to open a new generalized violent front in the region.”

­"They would stoop to anything"

Meanwhile, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh told RT the standoff in his country gets ever more entrenched with his opponents not seeing the dangers of making major changes too quickly.

”Our opponents reject the idea of holding presidential and parliamentary elections because they are aware they won’t be able to gain a majority,” he says. ”We are even ready to agree to their plans, so as to avoid bloodshed, although their proposals are unconstitutional.”

“Some countries in the region and some Western nations connive at such tendencies currently being seen in the so-called new Middle East,” he added. ”It is this the ‘controlled chaos’ scenarios are prepared for. This scenario cannot be called anything other than a plot against the region, I believe.  To that end, they would stoop to anything.”

­Writer Jean Bricmont, the author of the book “Humanitarian Imperialism” believes that the US is afraid to intervene in Syria because of its ally – Iran. Syria and Iran together are much bigger and much stronger than Libya and, taking into account America’s problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, they hesitate to intervene militarily. Nevertheless, thinks Bricmont, the logic of their intervention in Libya foresees further actions in Syria and other countries, resulting in a general war in the Middle East – and the international community won’t react to it, he believes. 

“The problem is, there’s no such thing as the international community,” Bricmont told RT. “Directness of the policies of the US over the last ten years has made sure there’s no international community, because people are wary of the intentions and policies of the United States, who’ve waged war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now in Libya. Only Russia and China are skeptical of what the US wants to do. There’s no international community – it’s been destroyed,” he said. 

“What is collapsing in the Arab world, is the Western policy,” added Bricmont. 

“The Western policy has been to demonize certain countries like Iran, support other countries like Saudi Arabia, the Mubarak regime, which were no better or more democratic than Iran. But they supported them, because they were friendly to the West, or friendly to Israel, or friendly to oil interests. And now it’s backfiring and the whole policy is collapsing,” he concluded.

­Meanwhile, Barbara Slavin, an expert on US foreign policy, believes that notwithstanding US claims about Iran helping the Syrians in quelling the unrest, the current turmoil in the country is fundamentally still an internal Syrian matter.   

“I don’t think the Iranians, frankly, with all the problems they have in their own country, are going to be able to save this regime,” she said. “My sense is… that they are already reaching out to other players in Syria, most likely some of the Islamic groups and others, because for them it is important to have a relationship with a country which takes a confrontational line with Israel.”

“Syria is very important in the region,” Slavin continued. “That’s why Iran has had an alliance with it since the 1980s. It is the most important state that is still in confrontation with Israel. It has tremendous influence still in Lebanon. As we’ve seen, it has been the conduit between Iran and Hezbollah. It enables Iran to play a role in the Arab-Israeli conflict in a major way. It’s a very important country.  I believe the old phrase was, ‘there was no war without Egypt and no peace without Syria,’ in terms of Arab-Israeli peace. So, it’s a tremendously important country, and of course it has an influence as well on Iraq.”