|Putin with Maliki yesterday (top right) and with Khamenei in 2007|
Emboldened by his one-on-one talks yesterday with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Iran’s emerging surrogate Nouri al-Maliki told Turkey to end her “presumptuous” verve and keep her hands off Syria.
The Iraqi prime minister’s blatant support of the Syrian regime came soon after he revived military ties with Moscow (see previous post).
Maliki said Syria was not threatening Turkey, and Ankara should not seek NATO’s intervention.
“Turkey is being presumptuous, you could say, as if it were taking responsibility for solving the Syrian conflict instead of the Syrian people and wants to impose its own solution. For this reason, the international community needs to stop Turkey from intervening,” he told the press in moscow.
NATO must not use protecting Turkey as a pretext to intervene in Syria, he said.
Maliki said Iraq's position on Syria is similar to Russia’s as both countries are calling for peaceful resolution of the conflict.
He also dismissed charges that Iraq allowed Iran to deliver weapons to Syria through its airspace.
“This is not true,” he told Interfax yesterday, suggesting the claims are politically motivated.
“We have been doing random checks of aircrafts and have not discovered any weapon aboard. We found no evidence of Iranian planes ferrying weapons to Syria. We clearly told Syria and Iran that we allow delivery of diverse cargo, but not weapons,” he said.
Putin meanwhile postponed a scheduled visit to Ankara because of his “busy schedule” this month, the Kremlin press office told RT (Russia Today).
The Russian president’s decision to postpone the visit comes amid mounting tension between Turkey and Syria.
Editorially, a Syria and Iran watcher, who is a confidant of the two countries’ decision-makers, says Tehran considers the battle for Syria the “Mother of All Battles.”
Grounds for Iran’s mindset, the man tells pan-Arab al-Hayat’s editor-in-chief Ghassan Charbel on condition of anonymity, are as follows:
*** Contemplate the region in the few years preceding the Arab Spring. Iran was in the driving seat. Its clout in Iraq was waiting in the wings for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Its relations with Syria were solid and titling in its favor. Its leadership was in the saddle of the Axis of Resistance, which stretched from Tehran to Syria, to Lebanon, and to Palestine via Jihad and Hamas.
*** Between 2000 and 2010, Iran scored spectacular successes: the 2006 Lebanon War, the debut of Iranian missiles in Israel’s security equation, and the Gaza War that consolidated Iranian presence on the Palestinian scene with Sunnite and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas.
*** Iran became the Number One player in Lebanon after the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian troops in the wake of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. From thereon, Hezbollah became the conduit for Syrian presence in Lebanon.
*** Via Hamas and Jihad, Iran was able to abort Palestinian-Israeli negotiations under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.
*** With the U.S. pulling out of Iraq and Maliki remaining at the helm there, the Axis of Evil came to include Baghdad, which fully espoused Iran’s Syria policy.
*** The Arab Spring startled Iran. Hosni Mubarak’s flaccid regime was an easier pro-American target for the Axis of Resistance. Mohamed Morsi’s election as president of Egypt at the peak of the struggle for Syria dealt Iran a body blow. Morsi has been unequivocal in wanting President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
*** Iran is now running into a regional brick wall. You can call it a Sunnite brick wall, given Morsi’s alliance with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the pair’s cooperation with Gulf Arabs, especially on the Syria file. This reality has shuffled the rules of play in the region.
*** The Axis of Resistance has lost its sole Sunnite offshoot, Hamas, which has moved out of Syria.
*** Iran is waging a “Mother of All Battles” in Syria in that it is defending there its role, its borders, its investments over the years, a crossroads, a corridor to Hezbollah, and its gains in Iraq and Lebanon.
*** Hezbollah is in a life-and-death battle in Syria. The “Party of God” is aware it needs the Syria corridor to remain a regional player and retain the ability to wage war or face one. Otherwise, it would metamorphose into a local player in Lebanese politics.
*** Iran recognizes the Syrian regime’s fall and the rise of a substitute pro-Turkey regime could create new facts on the ground in Iraq and Lebanon. That would bring down the curtains on Iran’s role as a major player and undermine the image of its leaders as they struggle with U.S. and European sanctions and regional commitments.
*** It is difficult to imagine the Syrian regime returning to a status quo ante the Arab Spring. Iran is mindful of this, but chooses to extend the regime’s lifespan despite the costs. Such policy could turn Syria into an Arab Afghanistan worrisome to Turkey, Israel and other states.
*** Iran is waging a “Mother of All Battles” in Syria because it cannot bear losing two battles: the role battle and the battle for the bomb.