With support for Syrians, the Iranian project fails

Iran is deploying all efforts to drag the United States to its side in the wide regional battle, especially in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza and Bahrain. This is the first time that Iranians have changed their strategy, which in the past was based on neutralizing the American power through threats or intimidation as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Today, Tehran adopts a policy of rapprochement with the Americans. Iran is presenting itself as a reliable ally for ending, not just managing, regional crises. It is also portraying itself as is a regional power that can protect major Western interests.

This new approach is a major shift in the Iranian strategy. It recognizes the failure of the old policy which was based on creating troubles for the “Great Satan” and imposing Iran as a nuclear power. Today, it is looking forward to a comprehensive agreement with Washington that will mainly include the nuclear project.

However, the Iranian regime has to come a long way to reach a broad agreement beyond its nuclear file and become a partner in regional security. Tehran has to prove it is capable of managing battles on the ground and impose its political choices, whether in the face of terrorist organizations like ISIS, or through enabling Baghdad to impose its authority over all Iraqi territories, defeating the rebels in Syria, upholding the role of the Houthis and their allies in Yemen, achieving stability in Lebanon through Hezbollah, and finally ensuring good behavior of its ally in Gaza, Hamas.

Returning to the Syrian crisis

Achieving this mission is beyond the Iran’s capacity, but if it succeeds in one crisis, like Syria for instance, it will be able to end the crisis in Iraq, and it won’t be difficult to rein in Hamas in Gaza. What is being said about American-Iranian rapprochement seems to be true but it is based on illusions that Iran is capable of resolving difficult issues due to claims that Tehran is party in those conflicts.

The Iranian regime has to come a long way to reach a broad agreement beyond its nuclear file and become a partner in regional security

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

In my opinion, it is not difficult to prove that the Americans are mistaken in believing that Iran is incredibly influential. In order for Iran to fail to deceive the world into believing it is the golden key to the region, and in order for us to prove that it is in fact a party that failed to resolve any crisis, we must return to Syria.

This battle needs to be resolved. Iranians claim that they are about to resolve it, trying to convince the international coalition, led by the United States, to cooperate with them to support the Syrian army with intelligence and help it crush terrorist groups and degrade the Free Syrian Army.

We can see that the United States is using the expression of “forcing Assad to return to the negotiating table!” This is unclear and it could mean implementing the old Russian-Iranian project to keep the Syrian regime in power and Assad as president with some ministerial posts for the opposition. Here we have two types of opposition: one is created by Assad himself and is totally rejected by the majority of Syrians. The second is the legitimate opposition, which attended the Geneva II conference earlier this year. Forcing Assad to negotiate instead of resigning is in the interests of Iran. Through imposing a regime that suits it, the Islamic Republic can later dominate Iraq and Lebanon to become almost the only country that has the security guarantees of Israel’s safety and a powerful actor for any future regional peace agreement.

It is important to understand the overall scene and not just the sporadic battles, as we are facing a new shift in Iranian politics. We are dealing with an American president, who appears to suffer from a phobia of the Middle East’s problems that he eagerly wants to avoid. The American president believes that Arabs are passing through an idle stage, especially with the absence of their most powerful countries. President Barack Obama is perhaps ready for any convenient deal, so he gave up on the 500 centrifuges sticking point to triple that number, and is ready to lift sanctions on Iran without going through Congress.

This all reflects his strong desire to reach a quick agreement, after which Obama will score a media victory for a historic achievement. However, on the long-term such a deal would empower Iran, which is the regional source of all evils since 1979. The Americans will discover later that they have empowered the forces of evil in the entire region.

The Arab world should thoroughly think about the seriousness of the consequences of what is happening. This is not a conspiracy; it’s a chess game, and Syria is the Queen. In my opinion, Syria is the Iranian strategic point of weakness and it will be difficult for Iran to triumph there despite all claims. Unlike Iraq, 80 percent of the Syrian population is against any regime loyal to Iran, whether headed by Assad or not. Today, the regime, is barely controlling one-third of the country. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), despite it being shattered by ISIS and al-Nusra Front, remains the only combat camp qualified for development and governance later on. It represents all the components of the Syrian people. We support and back the FSA, the United States will have to deal with this, and the Iranian project to control the region will eventually fail. Consequently, Iran will automatically become weaker in Lebanon and Iraq. Sadly, we have noticed a decrease in the support for the FSA. There are only American promises for the FSA, which even if fulfilled at a later stage, they will be conditioned by the acceptance of an unfair deal in Damascus. This will weaken the FSA and not serve its objectives; it will only be a military brigade in the American-Iranian project for the new Syria.

Thus, the countries that are trying to wipe out the coalition and the FSA, such as Turkey, should be aware that they are committing a serious political mistake. The consequences of it will enable the Iranians to take over Damascus, similarly to when they enabled Hezbollah to take over Beirut in the past decade, for which the Lebanese and Arabs are sadly still paying the price for. They attacked the moderate Lebanese side 10 years ago, and now they are doing the same to the moderate Syrian civilian opposition.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 1, 2014.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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