Despite the brutal crackdown by the Assad government, the ongoing protests in Syria have the Iranian leadership worried. The survival of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, is essential to the dictatorial Islamic regime in Tehran because Syria provides the very gateway to Iran’s expansion of power in the Middle East and its extremist policies against Israel and the United States.
For the past four months, Syrian authorities have killed more than 1,500 people during widespread protests demanding the overthrow of the Assad regime. Neighboring Turkey has denounced the Syrian slaughter. Thousands of fearful residents from the northern regions of Syria have taken refuge in Turkey.
A recent article published in the weekly magazine Sobh’eh Sadegh, one of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ media outlets, sternly warned Turkey against its stance on Syria, emphasizing that Iran stands squarely with the Assad regime.
The article, entitled “Iran’s Serious Stance in the Face of Syrian Events,” warned that “Should Turkish officials insist on their contradictory behavior and if they continue on their present path, serious issues are sure to follow. We will be put in the position of having to choose between Turkey and Syria. Syria’s justification in defending herself along with mirroring ideological perceptions would sway Iran toward choosing Syria.”
The article, sanctioned by the Iranian government, made these points:
♦Turkey is gravely mistaken if it believes Syria is on a “one-way path to destruction” and that any dreams it may have to take advantage of the fall of Assad will not happen. “From Iran’s standpoint, the Syrian leadership is in the midst of resolving its problems, and as soon as foreign meddling stops, the Syrians will be able to revert back to ‘normal.’”
♦Turkey can only realize its “ambitions” through an “alliance (with Syria and Iran that) can take over a more extensive part of the region.”
♦The “rabble rousers” participating in the Syrian protests are “puppets of Zionists and the United States.” The “proof of their alliance with the enemies of Islam” can be seen in their denunciation of Hezbollah, the “resistance front.” “The Syrian dissenters are working directly for the Zionists and are against the resistance front. None of this is coincidental. There are clear signs of direct connections. The Zionists still occupy and control parts of Syria (the Golan Heights).” Chanting slogans against Iran and Hezbollah by the “radicals in Syria will be their last stand.”
As reported earlier, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sent a letter to President Obama warning against any meddling in Syria. The Iranian officials also warned Turkey in recent weeks that should Turkey provide assistance to the U.S. in helping the protesters in Syria, then all U.S. and NATO bases in Turkey will become targets for the Iranian missiles.
The Iranian leaders’ top priority is to prevent the fall of the Assad government. Such a fall would trigger several crises for the Iranian leadership: It would impact their influence in the Middle East, threaten the survival of Hezbollah in dominating events in Lebanon, and could reignite unrest in Iran where its citizens would hope to remove their own dictator.
As the Iranian regime watches events unfold in Syria, it has indeed much to worry about, including its very existence.
Despite all the threats by the radicals ruling Iran, the West should do all it can to help overthrow the Assad regime. A domino effect would help bring change in Iran and end much of the extremism in the region and the world.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who requires anonymity for safety reasons. He is the author of A Time to Betray, a book about his double life as a CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, published by Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, April 2010. A Time to Betray was the winner of the 2010 National Best Book Award, and the 2011 International Best Book Award.