Jerusalem, Israel – The Israeli print and electronic media over the weekend focused on the meeting last Thursday between the leaders of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, together with the heads of Palestinian terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
During their meeting, the Syrian president promised his Iranian counterpart to refrain from opening peace negotiations with Israel in exchange for massive Iranian military aid and Tehran’s support of Syrian interests in Lebanon.
This was reported Saturday by the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which is published in London.
Following their lengthy meeting in Damascus, President Bashar Assad said, “I am calm today, more than ever.” After their meeting, the Iranian president also met privately with Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas political bureau director Khaled Mashaal.
According to the report, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad undertook for the first time to help Syria with nuclear research and chemical weapons, to equip its navy with surface-to-sea missiles of the type that Hezbollah used to attack the Israel Navy Hanit warship in the course of the Second Lebanon War, to build in Syria a factory for the manufacture of medium-range missiles and to alot $1 billion to the purchase of advanced tanks and combat planes from Russia. Iran even promised “to make problems” insofar as pertains to the Lebanese presidential elections in order to ensure that Emile Lahoud, Assad’s lackey, remains in office. In exchange, Syria promised not to advance any peace process with Israel.
During meetings with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad apparently requested that any deal for the release of the kidnapped soldiers be suspended, “in exchange for tens of millions of dollars,” said the sources. However, they believe that the information about the arms deal was leaked deliberately, “from a source who has an interest in pointing to the strengthened Syrian alliance with Iran.”
The visit of the president of Iran to Damascus had been planned three months ago, and Nasrallah’s joining was planned as well. The leader of Hezbollah visits Damascus secretly from time to time, and it seems that this was not the first time he has done so since the war.
Iran wanted very much to be the first country to congratulate Assad publicly on his electoral “victory,” and if it could pat Nasrallah on the back at the same time for his “victory” in the war that same weekend, all the better.
Meanwhile, Iran is establishing frontline outposts on every frontline post against Israel, with tentacles that reach to Gaza and Sinai.
The Iranians heard and read the buzz of peace and the low intensity talks between Israel and Syria, and were quick to drive a wedge between them.
As of now, Iran is the empire upon which Syria is leaning. Iranian involvement in Syria is deep and far exceeds the realm of security. Iran plays no small part in Syria’s civilian industries.
Assad has no lack of headaches. Over the next several weeks, the U.N. report on the assassination of former Lebanese premier Hariri is due to be released. In September, there are presidential elections in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is fighting against a Lebanese internal front that is more stubborn than it had expected. In recent weeks, the Lebanese army engaged in a number of fierce battles with al-Qaida offshoots in Lebanon. According to Western assessments, between 100 and 200 Lebanese army troops were killed in those battles, but al-Qaida’s strength in that country has been broken and thus, say Western intelligence sources, “severe terror attacks were averted, perhaps even nonconventional mass attacks that could have shaken the region.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora’s government, which has been hanging by a thread for quite some time, is showing unexpected signs of vitality and stubbornness, making Hezbollah show unexpected signs of irritation. The game in Lebanon is far from over and Nasrallah, a year after the war, is in a much worse state than planned.
Meanwhile, on Al-Jazeera TV, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul confirmed that Turkey was the secret mediator between Syria and Israel. He said that both parties had missed a number of opportunities to bridge the gaps between them.
Saudi Arabia Withdraws From
Its Own Initiative
Saudi Arabia is distancing itself from the Arab diplomatic initiative, which was formulated and presented by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia five years ago in Riyadh. In contrast to the position of the American administration, Israel, Jordan and Egypt, officials in the Saudi king’s court had demanded that senior representatives of Hamas be included in the regional peace conference that will convene in another two months, and hosted by the American government. That demand was rejected by the Bush administration.
There may have been another reason for Saudi cold feet. A senior Israeli security official told the Israeli media that they have been monitoring the Saudi king’s gradual disengagement after it was he who conceived of the Arab peace plan. “We believe that the Saudis got cold feet because of concerns about the Iranian threat and fears of terror attacks sponsored by Iran and al-Qaida,” said the sources. “According to the information we have, the Saudi palace panicked and withdrew from the peace initiative and threw the political ball into the hands of King Abdullah of Jordan.” The Israeli security official also noted that the published report in the Israeli media about the secret meeting between Olmert and Saudi National Security Adviser, Prince Bandar Bin-Sultan, increased the panic, confusion and concerns in the king’s court in Riyadh.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007