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Syria and Iran - Book Review

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Syria and Iran - Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East. Jubin M. Goodarzi. I.B. Taurus & Co. New York/London. 2009.

"In the past we prepared for a possible military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities," said one insider, "but Iran's growing confidence after the war in Lebanon means we have to prepare for a full-scale war, in which Syria will be an important player."

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At a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, Ahmadinejad said that "Iran and Syria stand in a united front" and the West strongly needs to cooperate with them, drawing upon Iran and Syria's key roles in regional issues.

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One can learn a great deal by analyzing the visit of Syrian President Bashar Assad to Iran last week. Statements made by Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reveal a great deal about the allies' strategy which seems to escape Western observers.

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Jerry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, August 24, 2009

"Syria and Iran have been from the very beginning united and in agreement to stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance," Ahmadinejad said. "They will continue to do so. We see that the resistance will continue until all occupied territories are liberated." "It is time to evict the foreign presence, which has caused so many problems for the people, from the region," Ahmadinejad said. "We did not invite them, they are uninvited guests."

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1083216.html

Assad: Syria-Iran ties serve stability and strength of Mideast, Editorial, May 06 2009.

Except for the first, the above quotes occurred within the past month and reflect the accepted position that the alliance between Syria an Iran is still cooperative and aligned against U.S. interests and for Palestinian interests in the Middle East. This alliance has been ongoing for the past thirty years and recent U.S. statements about separating the two appear highly naïve in light of so much information about the strength and duration of the alliance.

In a well structured academic work, Jubin M. Goodarzi details the interactions of the two countries "in response to acts of aggression orchestrated by Iraq (1980) and Israel (1982), in both cases with the prior knowledge and tacit support of the USA." His position is that it has been "a defensive alliance aimed at neutralizing Iraqi and Israeli offensive capabilities in the Gulf and Near East, and thwarting American encroachment in the Middle East."

While the work contains many reiteration of ideas, as necessitated by the many interweavings of different diplomatic efforts, they emphasize several ongoing themes: opposition to Israeli interests in the region (with Syria being the only active frontline state against Israel); support of the Palestinians (with major complications along the way vis a vis Beirut and Southern Lebanon); antagonism towards U.S. interests in the region (and their original tacit, now overt support of Israel); and the convoluted manoeuvrings between Arab countries, some aligned with Israel, some against, and both groups desperately balancing rhetoric and actions to maintain their own status and power within the region.

Palestine

Without too much effort, the reader will come away with the feeling that while the Palestinian cause is a genuine concern for Arab freedom, when it comes to the negotiations of the political elites, the Palestinians play a much diminished role. They become at times simply pawns in the great game of chess being played out in the Middle East. It was not until the end of the era under discussion (up to 1989-90), after the Iran-Iraq war finally ended, that Arab concerns were able to bring the Palestinian cause to the fore, and even then it took the events of the First Intifada to really raise the issue to a pan-Arab consciousness. The latter perhaps indicating that with an active Palestinian resistance making headlines, the elites of the Arab countries had to worry about the effects of the uprising on their own populations.

U.S. interference

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Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an (more...)
 
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