Wednesday, July 01, 2009


"Western analysts ( See the three articles excerpted below) argue that the troubles in Iran will cause the weakening of the Islamic Republic and lead to Syria’s loss of trust in Iran. They further argue that this will create an opportunity for the US to “flip” Syria, which means getting it to cut support for Hamas and Hizbullah and sign peace with Israel.

This argument makes little sense to me. Let me offer two reasons why I fail to be convinced. 1) How will Iran be weakened by cracking down on liberals, reformers, and factional opponents? Is this something the Iranian government has not done many times before? Did Iranians believe that Iran was a liberal republic before the elections, such that everything has now changed, as some Western analysts seem to believe? Will the Iranian government now forswear the development of nuclear power, abandon its support for Syria, or collapse into political chaos? I doubt it.

2. Will Syria decide to sacrifice claims to the Golan in order to sign a peace agreement with an Israel that refuses to trade land for peace? That is the implication of all these analysts. What will the US or Israel offer Syria that it was not offering prior to Iran’s disputed elections to make Syria abandon its foreign policy priorities of retrieving its occupied land, not abandoning Lebanon to America’s and Israel’s sphere of influence, and supporting Palestinians in their struggle to retain ownership of their land.

Many Americans and Israelis share a belief that they can solve the Arab-Israeli conflict by breaking the Arabs. The analysts recorded in the following articles seem to be swayed by this conviction. They may turn out to be correct, but it will take many more decades of struggle before we will know. In the mean time, I doubt that the events in Iran will bring a sea change in regional attitudes toward Israel or the balance in power".

Joshua Landis, "Why Turmoil in Iran [Persia] will not cause Peace between Israel and Syria," 28 June 2009, in

Joshua Landis' comments are quite pertinent and apt. Contrary to some of the commentary, that Landis cites, I do not see how the ongoing crisis in Persia can possibly result in an increased chance that the Syrian regime can be 'flipped' diplomatically. At least not 'gratis', which as Landis' likes to argue, is the perceived fashion that many American officials seem inclined to operate vis-`a-vis the regime in Damascus. As a practical matter, and, the following analysis applies to not only Syria, but all of the existing regimes in the Levant and the Near & Middle East, the crisis in Persia and its impact on the region, will be by definition muted in scale and tone. Why one might well ask? For the simple reason that the foreign policies of almost all of the regimes in question are primarily a result of domestic political variables, and, not simply pressures by outside powers abroad. Even if that outside power is the United States. In short what the late, great 20th century German historian, Eckart Kehr, once characterized as: 'der primat der Innenpolitik'. In the case of the regime in Syria, to cite one example, the alignment with Persia is part and parcel of the internal political balances of both Assad Pere and Assad Fils. Id est., that Syria has been ruled by a small clique of elites, centered around the Alawaite sect. Which makes up no more than eight to ten percent of Syria's population. A sect which is widely viewed by the Sunni majority with hostility and suspicion. Consequently, from the point of view of the regime in Damascus, Shiite Persia, is a natural ally in every sense of the word. Both being viewed with suspicion if not open hostility by the Sunni majority regimes in the rest of the Near East. For Syria to tout `a coup, to go over to the Americans and their Sunni Allies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and, the Gulf States, would be from the vantage point of internal regime security, a highly dangerous maneuver. One that Assad Fils, will most definitely not undertake, unless and until Damascus has been promised not merely the diplomatic equivalent of 'chicken feed', but genuine 'gold dust'. And, for Syria 'gold' is an unrestricted return of the Golan Heights by Israel, along the lines of status quo ante bellum. Something which the current Netanyahu Cabinet in Tel Aviv, has shown absolutely no sign of be willing to endorse, much less seriously consider.

Once, one goes beyond Syria, many of the same variables dealing with foreign policies in the region, come into play: the internal, domestic, political influence on foreign policy. For the very same reason, for example it is quite fruitless to expect or anticipate, that Baghdad, will ever, regardless of who is in power in Persia, pursue an anti-Persia foreign policy. Unless and until the Shiite-majority regime in Baghdad is overthrown, then no government, will ever seriously consider such a diplomatic position. One can almost state for the record that this is a fact which has been written in stone. In short, one cannot at this point, expect much in the way of any great changes in the foreign policies of the various regimes in the region, as a result of the internal upheavals in Peria at the moment. However much that is something which American neo-conservatives and their friends abroad would like to come about.