Iran further consolidated its anti-US coalition and honed its hard edge against Israel this week with two important defense treaties signed with Syria (covering Lebanon) and Qatar, home to the biggest US air base outside America. These treaties opened doors for Iranian troops to be stationed in all three countries. According to debkafile's military sources, they are already present in Syria and Lebanon.
On this high note, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Thursday, Feb. 25, wound up their talks in Damascus – to which Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was co-opted – on joint military preparations for a Middle East war.
That day too, Israel completed a five-day command exercise against a possible four-front assault by the Tehran-led coalition.
Our sources reveal that after his talks, the Shiite Iranian president make the extraordinary gesture towards the Arab countries he is wooing of attending a two-hour prayer session with Assad at a Sunni mosque in Damascus. Asked about his Shiite sensitivities, Ahmad said, "We are all one Ummah."
Together with Nasrallah, the pair later appeared before the press to scoff at US policies, celebrate their friendship and predict Israel's early annihilation, the day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a U.S. Senate subcommittee the United States had recently urged Syria to "begin to move away" from Iran following the appointment of its first ambassador to Damascus in five years.
Ultimately, she said, the United States expects Assad to curb his ties with Iran and his support for militant groups like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.
Assad drew laughs when he told the correspondents that he and Ahmadinejad had just signed "a separation accord, but because of a bad translation "we ended up signing an accord scrapping visas.
debkafile's military sources report that this clause facilitates the passage of Iranian military into Syria and between Syria and Lebanon.
The Iranian president suggested jocularly that "no-one had enlightened her" about the depth of Iranian-Syrian relations and called on the United States to "pack up and leave the region." "A new Middle East – one without Zionists and imperialists – was quickly emerging," he said.
Assad expressed Syria's full support for Iraq's uranium enrichment activities. "To forbid an independent state the right to enrichment amounts to a new colonialist process in the region," he said.
In Doha, Iran's defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi and Qatari chief of staff Gen. Hamad bin Ali Attiya put their signatures Wednesday, Feb. 24 to military contracts providing for "the exchange of technical and expert delegations, the expansion of cooperation in personnel training and joint campaigns against terrorism and elements behind regional insecurity."
This language covers the dispatch of Iranian officers and soldiers to Doha, a sight the US and Saudi Arabia hoped never to witness. The "elements behind regional insecurity" refer to the United States and Israel.
The big US air base was established at Al Udeid, Qatar, to keep the Persian Gulf and its oil resources safe and curb Iranian expansion. That its rulers were now willing to host the Iranian defense minister and establish military ties with Tehran is another landmark in that expansion drive and a serious setback for America's regional standing.