TAHA ÖZHAN > Iran and post-al-Assad

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Almost a year ago, we raised the question of what would have happened had Iran not supported the Baathist regime in Syria. Answers to this question then indicated that positive winds would blow into our region from the political, cultural, and geopolitical directions. Yes, had Iran not supported al-Assad, all issues, from sectarianism to the bloodshed in Syria, from Israel to the Saudi administration’s stance, from the “Arab Spring” to American attitudes in the region would have yielded more positive consequences for the peoples of the region. Unfortunately, it was not so. Iran has forsaken becoming a determinative or order-making actor in the region to support the ideological cousin of the Baathist regime with which it fought the longest war of the 20th century. This trade-off has resulted in a difficult situation to resolve, both for Iran and for the region.

Iran, just like Russia, is facing a bigger problem than a Syria with al-Assad: What will they do in a Syria without al-Assad? The quality of the answer Russia gives to this question will not change the exaggerated geopolitical position Russia held while al-Assad was in power in Syria. In the final analysis, Russia will be as great a determining factor in Middle East and eastern Mediterranean geopolitics in a scenario without al-Assad as it has been for the last forty years. No big deal for Russia!

The situation is different for Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran, which came to power via the people’s revolution, has lost a lot of ground due to its stance on the Syrian movement. It is now time to raise a new question: What can Iran do to bind its wounds post al-Assad? Unfortunately there is no good answer Iran can give to this question in the short term. However, Iran still has the opportunity to make a sharp U-turn during the post-al-Assad period, and become a strong and determinative actor in the region.

Just four days ago high-level Iranian decision makers visited the Baathist regime, which even Russia is hesitant to visit at this stage in the game. It is clear that the Iranian political actors cannot read developments in the region accurately, because they did not hesitate to pose for pictures alongside members of the Baathist regime, which has no friends left other than Russia since it has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians.

Iran has to change its perspective on the region if it really wants to become a determining factor in the region post-al-Assad. It will not be enough for it to take a stance against Israel’s comfortable enemy, the Syrian Baathist regime. Iran must understand that it still has a great opportunity in front of it, even this late in the game. The Iranian administration must immediately change the difficult or impossible relationships it forged over Syria. A Syria without al-Assad presents a way out for Iran — which wants to forge healthy relationships with Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and to become a determining factor in Lebanese and Iraqi politics, and to develop a strategic relationship with Turkey — from being ironically labeled a sectarian Baathist supporter. A step away from this label benefits not only Iran but also the region. It is only then that the legitimacy of and popular support for the Islamic Revolution of Iran will not be questioned. The Islamic Revolution of Iran, which mobilized the biggest revolution of the 20th century against the Shah, in the shadow of the U.S. and Israel, shall not be lost in the bloodshed committed by the Syrian Baathist regime.


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Notice on comments

Blue Dotterel

8/11/2012 3:52:00 PM

Aryeh, there were some honest demonstrations, as in Libya, but they were quilckly, within days not months, hijacked by the violent armed mercenaries long prepared for this event (the US has been planning this since 2007). This wasn't like Tunisia or Egypt where demonstrators continued peacefully in the face of gov't violence. Today, the FSA is largely a salafist terrorist organization funded and armed by anti-democracy, anti-secular nationalist regimes in Qatar, Saudi and the US.

Aryeh Rapaport

8/10/2012 10:27:51 PM

Blue, before opposition united there were no "terrorists" but only demonstrations. Every demonstration more died, were injured or tortured. Stories of horror surfaced which the world wont be able to ignore. For months there was no shooting back, no global cooperation, Turkey was still announcing Assad to be a partner and brother until Turks also gave up. Would Turks throw trade relations out the window for no reason? They just broke up with Israel!! Even Turks couldnt overlook Assads horror

Joshua Bronxman

8/10/2012 9:41:44 PM

"Syrians had as much security justice and freedom as Turkey or Israel before the Nato, GCC mercenary attacks and massacres." This statement doesn't reconcile with what happened in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the country's president, Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth operation against the town of Hama. Depending on the source, the number killed ran between 10,000 to 40,000. Neither Turkey nor Israel is relevant to this discussion.

Safiyah Noor Page

8/10/2012 9:10:32 PM

I wish this hopeful analysis was true but sadly it is not. Two words-Arab Spring-changed everything and geopolitical power now squarely rest in the Gulf, the "West" and China/Russia. An Iranian/Western dynamic is yesterday's conflict. A testament to this loss of Iranian importance has been their failure to see that dumping Al Assad would have cost them nothing while allowing them to shore-up still viable ties elsewhere.

Blue Dotterel

8/10/2012 7:44:22 PM

Aryeh, have you ever been to Syria? Syrians had as much security justice and freedom as Turkey or Israel before the Nato, GCC mercenary attacks and massacres. Now they have no security, no justice, and no freedom, as the terrorists routinely attack therie towns, summarily execute anyone suspected of being pro-Assad and their families, and have no freedom to live an ordinary life. The FSA and their backers have taken all that away from them, and given them terror and economic sanctions instead.

Aryeh Rapaport

8/10/2012 4:09:12 PM

Its clear Iran is counter Turkey, SA, Egypt, religiously, politically, strategically. Why would Iran drop Syria, a rare partner who enables her to be a ME power by supporting Hamas, Hezzbollah? Iran is much more dependent on Syria then Russia and therefore I expect a different policy. Its highly hypocritical of Iran to Support Bahrainis fighting for freedom yet close its eyes when Syrians are being killed, tortured without accountability. Syrians deserve a future of security, justice and freedom

Shah Hamdan

8/10/2012 12:07:51 PM

Its very short sighted piece of article. The revolution in Syria is not driven by its people but its from external actors. Still a large population support Assad and his government. Iranian are playing smart without being isolated. They collected 30 countries in Tehran yesterday to discuss Syria. They have convinced countries like Pakistan to support them which is suppose to Saudi and American ally. The need is Turkish government re access its policies if Assad stayed in power after this turmoil

Rimon Tree

8/10/2012 9:28:24 AM

I think you put the wrong question! The really important question is: What would have happened if Turkey had NOT supported Iran for years and years just to annoy the West? Here the failure of the Turkish foreign policy started already. Did they really think Iran would allow Turkey to become a "leader in the ME" instead of herself?

Blue Dotterel

8/10/2012 3:34:05 AM

Assad is still in power, and the FSA has experienced serious reverses. Perhaps, Taha Bey, you should not get ahead of reality on the ground. Secondly, should Turkey overtly attack Syria, the Iran/Syria defense pact will become operational, and Iran and Turkey will be at war. This is what Israel and the US hope for since they can wash their hands of the affair, and let Iran and Turkey weaken themselves. They could join in as well, but this might bring in Russia, and the CSO.
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