Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Syria and the two Michels

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times

"At the urging of the Arab League, the six-week presidential deadlock in Beirut has been broken by a new power-sharing pact that neatly divides influence between Lebanese adversaries. But on the sidelines, Damascus is beaming. Upcoming president Michel Suleiman is a pro-Hezbollah voice that many believe will block anti-Syrian legislation. In Tehran, the mood is more sombre - its man lost out.......

Loser 2: Iran wanted Aoun for president. It fears a Syrian-US rapprochement via Suleiman - a formula that brings Syria and the US closer at the expense of Tehran. In April and May 2007, the Iranians made it clear they were unimpressed with the Syrian-US meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh or the visit of US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to Damascus. News of Iranian contempt was published in the Saudi daily al-Hayat. The Syrians always defended their alliance with the Iranians. They claimed - and still do - that Washington could not continue not talking to both Tehran and Damascus.

It has to talk to one of them and Syria is the most likely partner since it is moderate, reasonable and does not have a history of anti-Americanism. Syria can talk to the Iranians and get them to moderate their behavior, like it did in 2007 when 15 British sailors were abducted in Iranian waters. Under request from then-British prime minister Tony Blair, the Syrians helped secure their release. The Iranians fear Suleiman will be a new link between Damascus and Washington. This stance is not secure, however, nor is it permanent. It just worries the Iranians......."

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