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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid