Iran-Syria relations strained

By WND Staff

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Relations between Iran and Syria have become strained because the countries can’t agree on a joint policy of how to respond to a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq, reports Geostrategy, the global intelligence news agency.

Syria insists no help be given to the U.S. military while Iran has not ruled out limited cooperation with the U.S.

”The dispute has been sharpened by high-level contacts between Iran and the United States over the war against Baghdad and the future of Iraq,” a diplomatic source said. ”The Syrians have been left out of this and feel vulnerable.”

The rift became public last week when a leading Syrian media representative acknowledged that Damascus and Tehran are growing apart.

Ibrahim Hamidi, a Syrian writer regarded as the leading unofficial spokesman of Syria in the Arab world, said the possible U.S.-led war against Iraq has resulted in a gulf between Iran and Syria, which cooperate in developing missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

According to the Geostrategy report, Hamidi says the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad believes Iran and the United States have reached an agreement to allow U.S. warplanes to use Iranian air space for attacks on Baghdad.

In exchange, the United States would not threaten Iranian interests, including Tehran’s sponsorship of groups on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

The purported agreement resembles that of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Iran provided logistical support and intelligence help for U.S. troops authorized to destroy the Taliban regime.

”There is Syrian concern that Iran will be pressed into the same role that it had during the war in Afghanistan,” Hamidi wrote.

According to the report, Iran agreed to cooperate with the United States against Iraq within the past month. The decision was a result of concern over Syrian cooperation with Washington in the war against al-Qaida.

About 200 FBI and CIA agents are in Damascus monitoring al-Qaida’s movements from Iran toward the Middle East, according to sources.

”We are not talking about a break in relations between Iran and Syria,” one source said. ”What we are seeing is a Syrian signal that it does not want to be the only Arab country to pay a price for
supporting Iraq.”

Iran and the United States have reportedly been holding quiet negotiations regarding Iraq through European intermediaries, including Britain. A recent visit by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw focused on Iran’s role in any war against the Iraqi regime.

”The public expression of Syrian concern regarding Iran is new,” diplomatic sources said. ”Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shaara has not been happy with Iran’s increasing willingness to help the Americans as the U.S. military is demonstrating more aggressiveness
toward Damascus.”

The U.S. military apologized to Damascus last week for the violation of Syrian air space by American warplanes flying on missions in northern Iraq. Sources said U.S. fighter-jets have violated Syrian air space several times this year and also conducted what appeared to be a reconnaissance mission in northern Syria.

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