The "Iranization" of Syria

[Jerusalem Post] Amir Taheri - Little attention is paid to an Iranian plan to remodel Syria into a Khomeinist state, but there are signs that Iran is determined to export its ideology to Syria. Teheran believes that only an Islamicized Syria would be a dependable ally in driving the U.S. out of the Middle East, wiping Israel off the map, and creating a new Islamic "superpower" with Iran as its "core component." The murder of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in 2005 destroyed bridges between Damascus and moderate Arab capitals. Today, hardly a single Arab regime is prepared to maintain friendly ties with Syria, let alone prop up the Assad regime. At one stroke Syria lost the annual stipend of $250 million that it had received from Saudi Arabia since 1991. The more isolated Syria becomes, the more its leaders are forced to depend on Iranian power. Last June Syria did what it had not done even during its alliance with the USSR, and signed a defense pact with the Islamic Republic. The pact gives Iran direct access to the Syrian military at middle and senior levels. One result has been a fourfold increase in the number of Iranian military and security personnel in Syria. Iran has now set up 11 centers for Khomeinist indoctrination in Syrian cities. By last September, 17,000 Syrians had enrolled in classes to study the "philosophy of Imam Khomeini." Hundreds of Iranian companies are active in Syria, employing tens of thousands of people in a country hit by mass unemployment. Iranian television and radio networks, broadcasting in Arabic, are now available in every Syrian home.

2006-11-03 01:00:00

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