The Thursday visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Syria may convey a signal that Syria is under increasing pressure from Iran to join any war against Israel.

The Iranian president was also expected to visit Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Masha’al.

The Middle East Newsline has learned from Arab diplomatic sources that Syrian President Bashar Assad has received several messages from his Iranian counterpart for a commitment by Damascus to join any war against Israel. The sources said Mr. Ahmadinejad was demanding that Syria employ its ballistic missile arsenal in a massive strike on the Jewish state.

“Perhaps the next war, if it breaks out, will change the face of the region from top to bottom, just as World War II did,” Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi, said.

Mr. Atwan, regarded as close to several Arab regimes, reported that Mr. Assad has come under increasing pressure from the Iranian leadership to prepare for war against Israel. The Palestinian journalist said Mr. Ahmadinejad recently telephoned Mr. Assad and demanded that Syria launch tens of thousands of missiles that would destroy Israel in any future war.

Mr. Assad’s response to Mr. Ahmadinejad was not clear, Mr. Atwan said. The editor said Syria was caught between a choice to stay out of the next Israeli war, as in 2006 against Hezbollah, or fire tens of thousands of missiles, including those with weapons of mass destruction warheads, “under the current binding agreement” with Iran.

“The second possibility is the more likely of the two.” Mr. Atwan said in a column on Feb. 13.

Under the Iranian scenario, diplomatic and other Arab sources say, Hamas and Hezbollah would continue their military buildup until Israel is forced to strike. Then, Syria, with help from Iran, would launch a massive missile strike that would target major Israeli cities and critical facilities.

Egyptian parliamentarian and editor of the state-owned Al Gomhuriya daily Mohammed Ali Ibrahim said that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been pressing Mr. Assad to prepare for a major strike should Israel attack either Hamas or Hezbollah. The parliamentarian, regarded as a mouthpiece for President Hosni Mubarak, said Iran has already taken the first steps toward a regional war by expanding its uranium enrichment program.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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