Iran’s president was quick to pick up on French president Nicolas Sarkozy‘s Middle East strategy and the pivotal role he assigned Tehran’s foremost ally, Syrian president Basher Assad and took appropriate action, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources report.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set two steps in motion:
1. He scheduled a series of strategic-military conferences for Iranian and Syrian officials on nuclear-sharing starting July 7 in Tehran. They will take place between Iran and Syria in the framework of the Supreme Committee for Cooperation at the decision-making level of both governments.
2. He ordered the Iranian ambassador in Damascus, Ahmad Moussavi, the president’s own chef de bureau until he took up the ambassadorial post four months ago, to go public on an offer to share Iran’s nuclear “experience” with Damascus, emphasizing Iran’s big moral debt to Syria. Even if the Assad government does not desire the nuclear transfer, its leaders cannot afford to turn down Ahmadinejad’s invitation.
While the offer revealed in an interview with a Qatari paper aroused little media interest, its effect in Tehran was startling. The president had not told his colleagues, including supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, what he was up to and when they caught up, they took fright.
They hurriedly summoned Ambassador Moussavi home to explain his disclosures, for fear they would compromise both Tehran and Damascus and provide their enemies with proof that the two regimes were engaged in developing nuclear weapons.
Tehran is preparing to quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Qatari paper quoted the ambassador as saying:
“As part of boosting bilateral relations, Iran can pass on its experiences with nuclear power to Syria.”
He stressed that the Iranian revolution is called the “Islamic Revolution, not the Shiite or the Sunni Revolution. Islam taught us to pass on our knowledge and we can pass our experience to Syria if it wants it,” he explained.
Moussavi went on to say that Syrian and Iranian officials would meet on July 7, without specifying where or for what purpose. But the context indicated that the occasion would set in motion the process of transferring Iran’s nuclear technology to Syria.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources rate this development as heavily loaded with menace both for American Middle East interests and Israeli security.
While Iran’s advance towards a nuclear bomb posed a threat to Israel, proliferation of its nuclear resources including the technology for uranium enrichment and building compact missile warheads and letting them reach Syrian hands would bring the menace that much closer to Israel’s borders.
Tehran’s willingness to share with Damascus means it is ready to make good on its threat to quit the Non-Proliferation Treat it signed, if the West continues its pressure and sanctions to force Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations.
Chasing Assad back to the Iranian fold
What appears to be happening, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, is that Tehran may be moving ahead with a secret plan hatched by its military and intelligence chiefs in 2007 to relocate components of its nuclear projects, including some of its centrifuges, to Syria. The thinking behind this plan is that it would be prudent to distribute essential facilities in different places in the event of a potential American or Israeli attack.
The first exploratory talks have taken place with the help of pro-Iranian Syrian officers who act pretty much as Tehran’s agents in the Syrian defense establishment. They informed Tehran that Assad is apprehensive of taking up Tehran’s offer lest he appears in a bad light internationally.
That is exactly the corner into which Ahmadinejad is trying to push him.
He has never trusted the Syrian president and the object of his nuclear exercise is to tarnish him publicly as a confederate in Iran’s nuclear program.
This scheme, the Iranian president believes, will block Assad’s path to the role assigned him by Presidents George W. Bush and Sarkozy in their new Middle East strategy and derail the diplomatic track Turkey set up for Syria-Israeli peace talks. But most of all, the Syrian president must be made to run scared back to the fold of his strategic alliance with Iran.
Assad has good reason to watch his step. Tehran’s influence in the Syrian army and intelligence community is powerful enough to foment a military coup and bring a pro-Iranian Syrian general to power, should Assad even think of not toeing the line.
The Iranian ambassador may have been sarcastic, when he described Iranian-Syrian relations as “very good”, noting they have developed and become more positive in the last four months.