Wednesday, August 31, 2011
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
"Iran has adjusted its policy by referring to the "legitimate demands" of protesters in Syria and the need for the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad to respect "people's right to elect and achieve freedom". This places Tehran in league with Turkey and other regional powers pushing for democratic reform, but now the danger is that Assad might survive.....
Behind Tehran's decision to alter its approach to the Syrian political crisis are a number of important regional as well as internal considerations. As masters of survival who have successfully weathered the torrents of war, armed opposition and mass protests over the past 32 years, the leaders of the Islamic Republic are political pragmatists who rarely allow the rather thick lens of ideology or dogma to obliterate their grasp of political dynamics. They prefer to be ahead rather than behind political curves.
In essence, that means a dualistic approach toward Syria from now on, one track being in league with Turkey and other regional powers pushing for democratic reform, the other still in sync with alliance politics dictating discrete support for Assad's regime and opposing any Libyan-style foreign intervention.
According to various media reports in Iran, last week's Tehran visit by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, was an important catalyst in shifting Iran's policy away from a blind support for Assad and in favor of a more nuanced approach that emphasizes genuine political reforms.
There are those in Tehran who think that Iran has decided to move closer to its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf by distancing itself from the moribund Assad regime, which may experience serious cracks in its political, administrative and military institutions in the immediate future as a result of the growing mass discontent.
In turn, this raises a fundamental question: how valuable is Syria's alliance to Iran today, and is it worth risking a major cognitive dissonance, in light of Iran's overt support for the Arab Spring?
Indeed, the instant result of Iran's new approach toward Syria is that it closes the previous gap, between Iran's support for political transformations in other parts of the Arab world and Iran's non-support for the similar process underway in Syria, thus allowing Tehran to declare that it pursues a consistent and logical policy with respect to the current Middle East upheavals....."