Tehran hosts Assad to celebrate winning nuclear dispute with West and cooling of US-Israel ties
The Syrian president Bashar Assad was due to visit Tehran in a week’s time. The trip was brought forward to Saturday, Aug. 2 to coincide with the deadline the six powers gave Iran for an answer to its offer of benefits in return for its consent to suspend uranium enrichment – or face a fourth round of sanctions.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report: Iranian and Syrian rulers are so pleased with their unforeseen success in outmaneuvering the West that they called an urgent summit for follow-up planning.
When a line of Iranian leaders rejected the ultimatum on their “right” to develop a nuclear program, Washington responded mildly “we are not counting the days”, while the European Union said there was no hurry. In any case, as debkafile reports in a separate article on this page, a huge German energy deal with Iran has drawn the sting of any prospective penalties.
The Syrian-Iranian get-together also follows the failure of top Israeli leaders traveling to Washington in the past three weeks to persuade the Bush administration of the urgency of considering military action against Iran’s nuclear installations – or at least backing an Israeli operation.
Transport minister Shaul Mofaz was the last arrival after chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defense minister Ehud Barak.
Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, president Mahmoud Ahminejad and Assad can therefore pat each others backs over the cooling of US-Israeli strategic relations in on top of their other successes.
debkafile‘s analysts report that their feats owe more to the way the West plays into their hands than their own ingenuity:
1. In mid-June, the Bush administration decided to embark on a secret dialogue with the Islamic Republic. DEBKA-Net-Weekly was the first publication to expose this radical turn of events and to trace its progress. After procuring a direct line for business with US government leaders, and wrapping up deals, mostly behind Israel’s back, on the burning issues of oil pricing, Iraq and Lebanon, Iran nullified any leverage Washington had. Tehran can now afford to make light of the six-power ultimatum on its nuclear activities.
2. At about the same time, Israel entered into peace talks with Syria through Turkish mediation. The result: While Iran was developing its back-door rapprochement with the US, the Syrian ruler had hit the jackpot for buying back international legitimacy and a respected role in Middle East politics, without giving up his warm ties with Tehran or his sponsorship of terror.
Damascus can now afford to dump its diplomatic track with Israel as soon as Ehud Olmert steps down as prime minister in September.
The insistence of Olmert’s would-be successors – Livni and Mofaz from his own Kadima and Labor leader Barak – on continuing the talks with Syria, on condition that Assad pulls away from Tehran – not only mislead the public about their purpose, but feed the Damascus-Tehran alliance which is aimed against Israel.
3. French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave Assad a massive boost to the stability of his regime when he hosted him as the guest of honor at the last French Bastille Day parade. Sarkozy assured him then that he would act through the UN Security Council to abolish the international tribunal set up to prosecute the murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. This let the chief suspects, Assad’s close kin and intelligence chiefs, off the hook.
4. A torrent of studies suddenly coming out of US think tanks in recent weeks shows how hard American research and intelligence circles are leaning on the administration to expand its dialogue with Tehran. Bush is being urged to call off sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program and withdraw US backing from Iran’s disaffected minorities’ revolt against the Islamic regime – all for the purpose of putting US-Iranian relations on a normal footing.