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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.