Gaza: Tehran’s greater game

Amir Teheri, an Iranian and respected journalist, lays it out.

[..] Tehran, meanwhile, was concerned that a Hamas-Fatah deal would strengthen those in the Syrian leadership who dislike what they see as their country’s increasing vassalization to Tehran. The same Syrian leadership elements recently opened an indirect dialogue with Israel and received some encouraging hints from Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert.

Syrian critics of the alliance with Tehran pointed to the Mecca deals as a model that might help repair ties with moderate Arab states, placate the United States and, eventually, even persuade Israel to give up the Golan Heights, which it won in the 1967 war. A Hamas defection followed by a Syrian change of policy would have left the Islamic Republic isolated and exposed.[..]

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has structured his foreign policy on the assumption that a military showdown with America and Israel is inevitable. He also thinks that, when and if it comes, the radical forces led by Tehran would be able to resist long enough and to raise the cost of the conflict in human terms to break the adversaries’ will to fight.

For Ahmadinejad’s policy to succeed, it is imperative that Lebanon and the Palestinian territories become advanced posts for the Islamic Republic. Despite occasional threats to unleash a hailstorm of missiles against Iran’s Gulf-Arab neighbors, it is unlikely that the Tehran leadership would take the risk of killing large numbers of the very people it hopes to win over to its cause. The only U.S. regional ally that the Islamic Republic might attack without concern for who gets killed there is Israel. Tehran and Damascus believe that they can win the tug of war with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his governing coalition in Lebanon. In November, the Lebanese parliament, in which Siniora has a majority of five seats, is scheduled to meet to elect a new president of the republic to succeed the pro-Syrian incumbent Emil Lahoud.

[..] In anticipation of winning control of Lebanon, the Islamic Republic has increased its shipments of money and arms to Hezbollah and its allies. Most analysts agree that the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah had replaced virtually all of its losses in last July’s war against Israel. A Lebanese army bogged down in battles against Sunni radical groups controlled by Syria would lack the means to take on Hezbollah if the Shiite party decided to stage a coup in Beirut.

And with Lebanon in turmoil to its north, the last thing that Israel would want is to be forced to intervene militarily to its south in Gaza.

The battle in Gaza was something more than a local struggle for power between rival Palestinian factions. It was dictated by strategic imperative that could affect the broader region as the Islamic Republic and the United States intensify their rivalry over who sets the agenda for the future of the Middle East.

June 27, 2007 | Comments Off on Gaza: Tehran’s greater game

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