Iran sees ally Syria surrounded by U.S., Arab “wolves”

TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Beset by civil unrest at home and  lambasted by the West and his Arab neighbours for his violent  crackdown on dissent, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad can  count on one firm ally: Iran.

Bashar al-Assad

In a country that knows a thing or two about diplomatic  isolation, Iran’s politicians and media describe the Damascus  government as an outpost of resistance to Israel that has been  set upon by Washington and its lackeys in the region.

While several Gulf Arab countries have withdrawn their  ambassadors in protest at the violence , and  countries once close to Damascus, Russia and Turkey, have turned  harshly critical  , Iran is the  only big country still backing Syria, arguing anything else  would spell disaster.

“In regard to Syria we are confronted with two choices. The  first is for us to place Syria in the mouth of a wolf named  America and change conditions in a way that NATO would attack  Syria,” said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian  parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

“That would mean we would have a tragedy added to our other  tragedies in the world of Islam.”

“The second choice would be for us to contribute to the  termination of the clashes in Syria,” Boroujerdi said. “The  interests of the Muslim people command that we mobilise  ourselves to support Syria as a centre of Palestinian  resistance.”

A senior cleric pressed the message home. “It is the duty of  all Muslims to help stabilise Syria against the destructive  plots of America and Israel,” said Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem  Shirazi.

Iran also used troops to put down mass protests following  the disputed 2009 presidential election. Iranian leaders also  described those demonstrations as a Western plot.

ISLAMIC, POPULAR
AND ANTI-AMERICAN

Iran had hoped the Arab Spring, something Supreme Leader  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dubbed the “Islamic Awakening”, would  spell the end of U.S.-backed autocracies and usher in an era of  Muslim unity to face-down the West and Israel.

Khamenei used the June anniversary of the death of Iran’s  revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to tell the  nation: “Our stance is clear: wherever a movement is Islamic,  popular and anti-American, we support it.”  Without mentioning Syria by name, he continued: “If  somewhere a movement is provoked by America and Zionists, we  will not support it. Wherever America and the Zionists enter the  scene to topple a regime and occupy a country, we are on the  opposite side.”

Mohammad Marandi, an associate professor at the University  of Tehran, said Iran’s support for Syria was based on a shared  interest in helping resistance to Israel — both countries  support Hamas and Hezbollah — and that continuing to back Assad  while he reforms Syria’s one-party system was imperative.

“Iran has always believed that Syria should not be weakened,  because the Israeli regime will certainly take advantage of any  weakness,” Marandi told Reuters.

“In any case, real reforms can only be carried out in a  peaceful environment. The Western and pro-Western Arab media  campaign against Syria is intended to destabilise the country  and to prevent Syria from implementing reforms that will keep  Syria strong and an anti-Israeli government in power.”

He played down media reports of Iran increasing aid to  Syria. “I have not heard of any extraordinary aid delivery,  except in the Western media or media outlets owned by despotic  Arab regimes.”

BACK-STABBING PUPPETS      While civil unrest in Syria has not gone unreported in Iran,  it has received far less attention than uprisings in other parts  of the region, particularly Bahrain where Saudi Arabia helped a  Sunni monarchy put down protests led by majority Shi’ites.

In recent days, as Western media, though banned from working  in Syria, have reported a growing death toll, Iranian television  has focused more attention on unrest in Britain that some  Iranian journalists have described as a “civil war”.  With Gulf Arab countries turning against Assad, and Turkey,  a bridge between the Middle East and the West, taking a tougher  stance, Iranian newspapers reflect Tehran’s growing isolation.

After distancing his country from Israel and moving closer  to the Muslim world since coming to power in 2003, Turkish Prime  Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan surprised some in Iran with his  volte face. “In Syria, the state is pointing guns at its own  people … Turkey’s message to Assad is very clear: stop all  kinds of violence and bloodshed.”

The hardline Qods daily said Turkey, instead of showing  support for Syria and Iran, had capitulated to U.S. pressure.

“If Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government does not change its  political behaviour towards Syria, Turkey will be the main loser  of the Syrian events if Damascus gets out of the current  crisis,” it wrote in a recent editorial.

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