THE IRANIAN / SYRIAN PRISM
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday January 13, 2009
Iran and Syria see the world through their own prism. They keep each other's company, they enjoy each other's company, they support each other's diplomatic machinations, they don't trust each other one little bit and they certainly don't trust anyone else.
For Iran and Syria, that's normal. Iran and Syria need to feel in charge. Ask Hamas and Hezbollah leaders and they will answer that they are independent entities, but observe Hamas and Hezbollah and you will know that they are ruled by the whim, whimsy and wealth of Iran. Ask the rulers of Lebanon and they will claim to be an independent country, watch what happens in Lebanon and you will see the guiding hand of Syria. It's a mutual admiration society - Iran applauds Syria, Syria applauds Iran and they both applaud Hamas and Hezbollah.
Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, just came back from a multi day trip to Syria and Lebanon. This was not a routine trip. This trip had a definite, specific purpose. Larijani went to gather information about Gaza, he wanted details on the Israeli operation against Hamas.
Larijani is not your typical guest. He was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. He is a master strategist. He and Iranian leader Ahmadinejad are a team, they might disagree on economic issues and Ahmadinejad may take issue with some minor tactics within the larger strategic plan that Larijani composed, but that has not compromised their alliance.
If the Western world had been paying attention, if the Western world had bothered to monitor Larijani's comments during this trip, the Western world would have a better understanding of the rudder that guides Hamas. Instead, the Western world has averted its collective eyes, clogged its collective ears and turned oblivious to one of the most significant visits to take place in the Middle East in a long time. That's how we missed out on reacting to one of the most poetic descriptions delivered on the Egyptian/French cease fire proposal in Gaza.
While in Lebanon, after meeting with Hezbollah, Larijani summed the initiative up by calling it "honey injected with poison." While in the Syrian capital Damascus Larijani met with Khalad Mashaal, the head of Hamas. Yes, the actual head of Hamas is not in Gaza, he is in Syria, living under the protection and sponsorship of the Syrian government.
The Iranian/Hamas meeting lasted hours, it ran deep into the morning and when it was over, there were no official reports, no statements, no press conferences. Iran wanted details. Iran wanted specifics about Gaza - how much damage has been done, how strong is Hamas, how capable is Israel. Larijani was not interested in the mainstays of Arab conversation, rhetoric and hyperbole, he wanted cold, hard, facts, he wanted what the business world calls a real time assessment. For Larijani the situation in Gaza is a business deal turning sour.
Mashaal was not interested in giving over information, Mashaal wanted Iranian support, even Iranian intervention. If he could not persuade the Iranians to enter the fray against Israel he was at least hoping for them to sanction and enable international terror strikes, if not that then to at lest unleash Hezbollah rockets upon Israel from the North forcing Israel into a two-front war. He got none of that.
In return for information Iran promised to give money and to help rearm, retrain and rebuild their proxies - but they will not act. Iran will not jeopardize assets and push to the margins their larger objectives to help Hamas in a losing battle. Iran will serve as cheerleaders galvanizing Muslim support for Hamas and rally against Arab leaders, against Israel and against the West, against anyone helping Israel even by fiat or through acquiescence. Nothing more.
Iran is taking the Israeli invasion of Gaza very seriously. So seriously that Larijani is not the only high ranking Iranian official to visit Syria and meet with Hamas and Hezbollah. Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also traveled to Syria and met with Syrian leader Bashar Assad. More importantly he met with Halad Mashaal and Ramadan Salah, the head of Islamic Jihad, the other terrorist group in Gaza. Jalili, not quite as poetic as Larijani, echoed a common Iranian theme, saying that "the Zionists are one step away from collapse."
Syria and Iran are trying to spin the situation in Gaza, they are trying to figure out how to best manipulate world opinion against Israel. That's why Mashaal rejected all the cease fire proposals but demanded that Israel live up to the UN and Egyptian/French proposal. Is that seems like a contradiction it's only because you are analyzing the situation from a Western perspective. From the Iran/Syria/Hamas perspective the UN and Egyptian/French proposals are ammunition with which Israel can be attacked in the international arena.
Gaza is not going away. Syria and Iran are not going to change. Hamas and Hezbollah are not going to give up. If we want to keep up with the situation, we had better start looking at it through the Iranian/Syrian prism.
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