Temperatures shot up in many Western capitals when Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza Aref declared in Tehran to visiting Syrian prime minister Naji al-Otari: “We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats.”
The pledge was offered Wednesday, February 16, the day assassinated Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri was laid to rest in Beirut by throngs consumed with rage against Damascus.
The Iranian leader chose this moment to vow to back Syria against “challenges and threats,” explaining that both countries are facing strong American pressure.
The response from Washington followed within hours: If Iran and Syria aimed their remarks at the US, they were “misreading the issue,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “Their problem is not with the United States, it’s with the international community. Both Syria and Iran… need to abide by the commitments they have made,” he said.
Mr. McClellan’s words show that the Bush administration persists in ignoring the key element of Iranian-Syrian relations which also colors the situation in Lebanon, and that is the military cooperation pact binding the two governments since mid-2001.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East experts disclose that this pact is a survival of the original military pact signed by Saddam Hussein for Iraq with Syria and Iran. The two treaties were a closely-guarded secret until we exposed their provisions at length shortly after their signing.
Each signatory is assured that the other two will come to its aid if attacked by the United States. The treaty permits the three members to operate out of each other’s territory and present a common diplomatic front to Washington.
Memoranda added later cover Iranian funding for Syria’s military industry, particularly for its surface missile, chemical and biological weapons production, and permission for Iranian transports carrying arms for Hizballah to land and unload in the military section of Damascus airport.
Supplemental clauses applied to Bashar Assad‘s deals with senior officials of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Remarkably, the Syrian president scrupulously upholds these treaties to the letter through thick and thin. Therefore, Iran’s supreme ruler Ali Khamenei, when he saw the Syrian president had his back to the wall, responded at once by inviting the Syrian prime minister to Tehran for a dramatic display of solidarity in order to throw off American pressure on both their regimes.
This development is serious, our experts stress, in that it demonstrates that Iran and Syria have determined to invoke their mutual military treaty against any hostile force.
Indeed, President Mohammed Khatami called on Thursday, February 17, for the treaty to be expanded to create an Islamic front that could stand up to “threats from America and Israel.”