Published — Saturday 9 March 2013
Last update 9 March 2013 6:58 am
THE United States links its position with the Syrian crisis and the Iranian nuclear program. It seems Washington wants to strike a comprehensive deal to cope with the situation in post-Assad Syria, the outbreak of a potential civil war in Iraq, and a revolution in Iran. For this reason, the United States has been patient with the two countries — Syia and Iran— hoping the regimes will collapse due to internal friction. Tehran is trying to hide its internal problems by intensifying external activities. Senior officials in Tehran are looking for a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. It is supporting a Shiite pocket in Yemen, triggering unrest in Bahrain, and threatening the security and stability of the Gulf.
The American deal would envisage Iran's approval of the P5 Plus 1 decisions and strategic decoupling with the Syrian regime. Washington has slowly been trying to realize this objective by financially supporting the Syrian opposition. It also desires to place Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations or force it to give up arms in order to transform it into a mere political party.
This indeed is in line with the American plan for Israel's security in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
Perhaps, the appointments of Chuck Hagel as the secretary of defense — after an understanding between the Democrats and the Republicans — and the appointment of John Kerry as the secretary of state send a clear message to that effect. Both of them are taking the American foreign policy a step toward former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's approach that is staying resolute and firm against Iran. Explicit in statements coming from both Hagel and Kerry is that the diplomatic solution on the Iranian issue will not be forever. Other options are equally on the table. Offering some $ 60 million to the Syrian opposition is a turning point in the American policy toward regime change in Syria. Based on this, one could make the case that Kerry's statements may have undermined the understanding reached between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry regarding the solution to the Syrian crisis. On the other hand, the secretary of defense stressed that there will be a strategic military approach in response to those who argue that America is on an economic and political retreat in the world.
The message is that Washington will not allow Iran to have a nuclear bomb. Therefore, all options are on the table and that the United States is committed to the security of Israel.
President Barack Obama will announce the new development in the American position during his upcoming visit to Israel on March 20. Clearly, the Israeli-American deal will include the position toward the Syrian issue. In fact, there is similarity in the positions of both Israel and America. Both believe the Syrian and Iranian issues are interlinked. Bring about change in Syria and it would put an end to the Syrian-Iranian alliance and isolate Iran. Intelligence assessment in Israel reveals that both the Iraqi government headed by Nuri Al-Maliki and the government in Tehran fear the downfall of Assad.
That is why Tehran has asked Hezbollah to transfer its fighters to Iraq because Al-Maliki has been trying to create tension in the region by saying that the collapse of the Syrian regime will lead to a civil war in Syria and Iraq and division in Jordan. In fact, it is nothing but propaganda.
In his upcoming visit to Tel Aviv, Obama will clarify his new policy toward Syria. He may refer to his vision of supporting the Syrian opposition, controlling events in Syria and allowing Israel to attack certain targets and Hezbollah. Hagel has said that the military option in dealing with Iran is still on the table. Against this backdrop, Iran's attempt to ignite a regional crisis will backfire.
Some intelligence reports say that America seeks to topple the regime in Tehran by targeting Syria, changing the political equation in Iraq, and reaching a political solution in Afghanistan. In addition to that, Washington has already begun to reach out to some ethnic nationalities in Iran to destabilize the country. That said, some Arabs and Gulf states cast doubt on the American seriousness when it comes to change in Tehran. Some even went a step further by raising the question whether these statements are not smokescreens that conceal some channels of communication with Iran to reach a deal.
In fact, the American representatives to the talks with Iran are keen to keep Iran in the process by softening their approach. But, this may jeopardize the US move to make any radical change in its policy.
While Tehran is carefully approaching Washington and sending messages to buy time, it is afraid of the post-Assad scenario. The reason is that Tehran is aware of the ramifications of the collapse of Assad regime. To avert any crisis, Tehran had ordered Hezbollah to send some 100 of its leaders to Yemen and some even went to Iraq. Moreover, Iraqi Hezbollah leader Wathiq Al-Battat had threatened to carry out ethnic cleansing within the Sunni neighborhoods in Iraq and against the Kurds at the behest of Iran. He also threatened other Gulf countries as Iran is facing real risks in days to come. It remains to be seen how all of that will play out.