Syria’s two main allies Russia and Iran have warned the United States about pressing ahead with military strikes now debated in Congress. Both agree with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any attack would engulf the Middle East and potentially cause WW III, the same dire warnings given by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein who said attacking Iraq would be the end of the world. While Russia and Iran call themselves allies, neither has said they plan to commit troops to defend al-Assad’s regime. Since the horrific Aug. 21 poison gas attack in East Damscus, Russia and Iran have denied the attack, stating emphatically that the U.S. fabricated the incident to justify military strikes against Syria. “The aim of the United State is not to protect human rights . . .but to destroy the front of resistance [against Israel],” said Quds Force commander Qassam Soleimani, again, dragging Israel into the mess.
Funding the insurgency against al-Assad, Saudi Arabia has a vested interest in toppling al-Assad. Iran often exploits negative Arab sentiment against Israel—especially the Palestinian cause—to pretend they have the same values or interests as the Sunni Arab population. Apart from their hate for Israel, Iran and Arabs have little in common. “We will support Syria to the end,” said Soleimani in a speech to the Assembly of Experts that advises Iran’s Supreme spiritual leader Ali Khamenei. Iran’s conservative mullahs are busy condemning former Iranian President Hashem Rasfanjani who acknowledge publicly that al-Assad used poison gas in East Damascus. While Soleimani vows undying support for Syria, it’s doubtful Iran’s new 64-year-old President Hassan Rouhani would supply any naval or land support to Syria, beyond the current contingent of Lebanon-based Hezbollah fighters.
Iran’s Quds’ militia is rumored to be about 15,000 strong, backed by Iran Supreme Leader. “The Syrian’s do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves,” said Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehgan, ruling out sending troop to al-Assad’s defense. Like most fringe militias, they operate somewhat independently of the Iranian military, frequently commanding their own press. While Rouhani says he’ll do “everything to prevent” the U.S. from attacking Syria, there’s little Iran can do other that stay out of what could escalate into an attack on Tehran. Any Iranian-backed attack on U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean would draw a forceful response from the U.S. navy, possibly dragging Israel into the conflict. Rouhani knows that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to defend the U.S.
When Rouhani came to power Aug. 3, the last thing he’d like to do is get dragged into a confrontation with U.S. Russia too has its ongoing business relationship with Syria but won’t get drawn into armed conflict with the U.S. “We work, we argue about some issues. We are human. Sometimes one of use gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems,” Putin told the Associated Press in advance of today’s G20 meeting in St. Petersburg. When Putin granted U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden asylum Aug. 7, it sent chills through U.S.-Russian relations, prompting President Barack Obama to cancel a mini-summit in Moscow. Putin opposes U.S. military action in Syria because it threatens his long-term business and strategic relationship with al-Assad, especially Russia’s Tartus naval base on the Syrian coast.
Putin’s been al-Assad’s most vociferous apologist, questioning why the 47-year-old former opthamologist would attack his own people with poison gas. Putin continues to ask the U.S. for concrete proof of al-Assad’s use of poison gas, insisting, so far, all he’s seen is spurious information. When NATO Supreme Commander, former Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen concluded al-Assad has used poison gas, Putin continues to ask for more proof. So far, he’s blamed the attack on terrorists trying to suck the U.S. into the conflict. “But if we see that steps are taken to violate the existing international norms, we shall think ho we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such weapons to certain regions of the world,” said Putin, admitting that Russia supplied al-Assad with poison gas. Putin threatened to veto any use of force resolution in the Security Council.
Iran and Russia’s support of al-Assad stops at the water’s edge, where both countries don’t intend to confront U.S. forces in the Mediterranean. Neither country can afford to commit their armed resources to defend al-Assad, especially when U.N. inspectors are likely to find that Sarin nerve gas was used in East Damascus suburbs. “Any action in Syria is against the interest of the region but against the friends of the United States in the region,” said Rouhani, forgetting that the biggest U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates all support U.S. actions against al-Assad. There’s less support currently on Capitol Hill than in Gulf Arab states that see al-Assad’s two-and-a-half-year bloody civil war as a massacre of Sunni Arabs. All the bluster about igniting a Mideast powder-keg or causing WW III doesn’t undo al-Assad gassing his own people.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.