Iran worried by Syria’s Unrest

Michael Theodoulou from The National writes:

Demonstrations in Syria are played down by Iran while other Arab-world uprisings and protests are hailed as an ‘Islamic awakening’

Iran is keeping a nervous eye on the growing unrest in Syria, where the Assad regime has been its staunchest Arab ally through three often-turbulent decades in the Middle East.

Tehran’s ability to project its power in the Arab world would be greatly reduced if Syria plunges into turmoil or its president is replaced by a less-friendly leader of a Sunni-dominated government.

“It would be quite a blow to some of the Islamic Republic’s strategic interests,” said Trita Parsi, president of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council.

Iranian officials currently appear confident the Syrian authorities will be able to crush the peaceful unrest which has stirred the country.

To ensure that outcome, Iran is sending Damascus material support to crack down on protesters, American officials claimed this week, while Hillary Clinton accused Iran of “hypocrisy”.

The US Secretary of State said Tehran was trying to align itself with some of the Arab popular uprisings, while trying to thwart democracy movements at home and in Syria.

In turn, Tehran maintains that Western powers are stoking Syria’s unrest to undermine Iran because it supports President Bashar al Assad’s “resistance” against Israel.

Some Iranian hardliners have also accused Saudi Arabia and Jordan, key regional US allies of stirring the Syrian pot for the same reason.

Tehran has until now mostly welcomed the changes in the emerging new Middle East, viewing them as blows to the US and gains for its own geopolitical ambitions.

Iran is also enjoying windfall oil revenues resulting from the regional upheaval, a valuable buffer against US-driven sanctions.

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