News / Middle East

Iran Denies Role in Syria Crackdown

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast (File Photo)
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast (File Photo)

Multimedia

Elizabeth Arrott

Iran has rejected allegations from Britain and the United States that it is helping Syria crack down on domestic opposition with advice, equipment, and training. Iran remains a key Syrian ally, with the two governments finding common ground on such issues as Israel, Lebanon and Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accuses Iran of supporting the Syrian government in what she calls its vicious assaults on peaceful protesters and military actions against its own cities.

The charge follows similar concerns from British authorities, including Foreign Secretary William Hague who said there is credible evidence of Tehran giving Syria aid to suppress dissent.

The Iranian foreign ministry denies any involvement in the Syrian crackdown, countering that it is other countries, in particular the United States and Israel, that are supporting what it calls "terrorist" actions in Syria.

Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says the foreign criticism is part of a plot against the "line of resistance" against Israel. That anti-Israeli line informs much of Iran's response throughout the past months of political protests in the Arab world. Tehran has sided for the most part with the popular uprisings, but draws the line when it comes to Syria.

Mounzer Sleiman is the director of the Center for American and Arab Studies.

"Iran views the struggle in the Middle East in terms of two camps, the camp of resistance, whether it is from the Lebanese resistance, the Palestinian resistance and the popular support throughout the Muslim world and the Islamic world and officially for Syria and Iran as governments," Sleiman said.

But Sleiman says Syria has no need for material help from Iran, dismissing recent Western accusations as "nonsense."

"Of course, Iran would like Syria to be safe and to be stable and to continue the role it has been playing geo-strategically in the Arab world and to maintain the alliance with Iran, because Iran and Syria are the subject of isolation by Washington, by Israel, by the Europeans and by others," Sleiman said.

Despite the increasing pressure and isolation, both Iran and Syria got a boost this week when a new government emerged in Lebanon dominated by Hezbollah, the political and militant group backed by both.

But such victory comes at a price. Already the Syrian government's alliances have prompted Syrian protesters to burn the Iranian flag and pictures of Hezbollah leaders.  

The Center for American Arab Studies' Sleiman says this is especially true among conservative Sunni Muslims in the minority Allawite-led country.

"They see the situation in terms of having the regime supporting Hezbollah or supporting the Palestinian resistance; they see it as something at the expense of Syrian internal domestic progress.  And it seems they would like to portray what is happening in terms of sectarian views instead of having it as a nationalist view," Sleiman said.

The Syrian government has also tried to play up the sectarian angle, an apparent bid to undermine the political demands of the protesters. But it risks becoming true: the more brutal the crackdown grows, the more frequent are reports of a growing Sunni-Sh'ite divide.

Iran's other interest in Syria is also likely to foster discontent:  Iraq, which is also riven by sectarian conflict. The chairman of the Gulf Research Center, Abdulaziz Sager, says Tehran relies heavily on Damascus to extend its influence over their common neighbor, and beyond.

"We have seen Syria paying a lot for the Iraq situation without winning any benefit on Iraq. The importance of the regime in Syria is acting by proxy on behalf of the Iranian policy in there, in the Levant in general, but also very specifically on Lebanon and Iraq.  And, at the same time, in case in the future, Iran again decides to go into any confrontation by proxy with the Israelis like Hezbollah did in 2006, that is also a possibility we are going to see," Sager said.

In Sleiman's words, such costs do not outweigh the benefits of Syria holding on to its current course and current allies, no matter how strong the pressure from the West or even the United Nations.

"The regime has many centers of positive elements that support this strategic position, the geo-politic position. And that means to maintain alliances with the resistance in Lebanon, with Palestine and relations with Iran. So, I don't think the regime is going to abandon and accept this kind of pressure, especially if there is a control of the security situation internally," Sleiman said.

Sleiman notes that Syria weathered previous pressure from the West to change its behavior, during the Iraq war.  Whether the current internal pressures are enough to tip the balance is what both the opposition and Syria's supporters are waiting to see..

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid