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18 Feb, 2012 12:41

Iran cornered with key ally Syria on the brink?

There are no signs of an end to the violence in Syria, Iran’s key ally in the region, with the West keen to change the Tehran-friendly regime. A noose is being drawn, but experts fear it may leave Iran compelled to act.

Since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Iran and Syria have developed all sorts of ties.The Islamic Republic supplies arms, ammunition and military technology to the Syrian security services. It has agreed to spend millions of US dollars for the construction of a military base in Latakia, to facilitate direct arms shipments to Damascus. Syrian officials have consistently expressed their support for Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program and emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution to the dispute. Both are under heavy criticism from the West. Iran is accused of not only of having nuclear ambitions but of helping Syria to build its nuclear facilities on their terms.All Tehran’s efforts to prove its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes are to no avail with IAEA observers unable to inspect the country’s facilities on their terms.Crucially, Iran uses Syria as a conduit for support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority – both declared “foreign terrorist organizations” by the US and Israel. If Israel and the US can bring about the downfall of Syria, Hezbollah will be weakened, which would certainly be to Israel’s advantage. And will bring the two one step closer down that road to Iran.“It is a proxy conflict between Israel and its western allies and Iran, which basically only has one ally in the region which is the Syrian Republic,” Mehdi Hasan Senior Editor of the “'New Statesman” magazine explained to RT. “So if you can get Syria away from Iran, either through a diplomatic deal, which they tried for many years, or through regime change, which seems to be the direction of travel now, then it will definitely weaken Iran. All roads in the Middle East right now seem to lead to Tehran”.Experts are calling this classic “divide and conquer”. Bring down pro-Iranian Assad, and replace him with opposition figures, who have already said they would adopt an anti-Tehran foreign policy. This would neutralize nuclear Iran’s most powerful ally.Take Syria away, and Iran’s influence in the region could wane. The US meanwhile looks as if it is trying to provoke Iran into some kind of retaliation so that there might be at least some pretext for an attack. Washington now seems concerned Israel could attack Iran in a matter of months.“The possibility of a conflict between the major western powers and Iran becoming a conflict between the world's major powers is on the horizon,” warns John Rees, an activist, from “Stop the War” Coalition.But experts are convinced, if cornered, Iran could bite.“Perhaps accelerating the nuclear program, accelerating its interference, or perceived interference in other countries in the region, perhaps Bahrain, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, and that will be the way Iran will react, so you can make a plausible case for suggesting that the removal of Assad will make Iran even more unpredictable, even more dangerous,” Islamic Affairs Analyst David Hartwell explained to RT. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned a nuclear arms race in the Middle East could become more dangerous than the original East-West Cold War as there are not the same “safety mechanisms” in place.“It is a crisis coming down the tracks,” he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. “If they obtain a nuclear weapon capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.”“And the threat of a new cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms … That would be a disaster in world affairs.”Meanwhile, reports suggest the Qataris and Saudis are already funding, arming and covertly operating with the Syrian opposition. Iran looks increasingly isolated, with a hostile Israel perilously close.