IPS

DEATH OF HAFEZ ASAD WOULD NOT AFFECT IRAN SYRIA RELATIONS

PARIS 10 June (IPS)

The sudden death of the Syrian dictator Hafez el Asad will have no significant impact of the "strategic alliance" that links the two countries since 1980, according to Iranian political analysts.

President Asad died Saturday afternoon of a heart attack, the Syrian state-controlled Television announced. He was 69 and suffering from a long illness.

He was the last of the three Arab leaders who were dealt a most crushing and humiliating defeat by their immediate neighbour, Israel, in the 1967 Arab Israeli War better known as the Six Days War. The two others were President Gamal Abdel Naser of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan.

But while both Cairo and Amman had established diplomatic relations with Tel-Aviv and recovered all their occupied lands, Mr. Asad refused to do so unless Israel agree fully and "with an inch of change" with his pre-conditions for peace.

After in 1980 Iraq attacked Iran, Mr. Asad, a staunch rival of the Iraq's Saddam Hussein, became the only Arab leader to side with the non Arab Iran, in sharp contrast with all other Arab leaders who rushed to back the Iraqi dictator.

To reward Syria, Iran had agreed to sell Damascus 5 million tons of crude oil at a reduced price plus another one million free of charge.

But as the economically wrecked Syria could not pay back regularly, it's total debts to Iran amount to more than 2 billions US Dollars, according to some estimates.

It was since that time that Tehran and Damascus concluded a non-written down "Strategic Alliance" that sow, among other things, the two countries backing the Lebanese Hezbollah as well as all other Arab forces opposed to peace with Israel.

However, the recent pull out of Israel from the "security zone" it had created 22 years ago in parts of South Lebanon had basically changed the nature of this "privileged" relations, as Iran was satisfied with the "victory" of Hezbollah in the one hand while Syria had lost it's last bargaining card against Israel on the other.

Despite an official silence, Iran would never forgive Damascus for the systematic backing it provides the United Arab Emirates in the dispute with Tehran over the sovereignty of the three Iranian islands of Abu Musa and the Great and small Tunbs at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. ?

Though the Islamic Republic do not recognise Israel any right to existence and routinely castigates Arab leaders, particularly Mr. Yaser Arafat, the "Chairman" of the Palestinian Authority, who have established diplomatic relations with the Jewish State, it has stated that it will "recognise" the right of Syria to make peace with Israel.

The sudden void created in Syria by the death of the man who controlled Syria with an iron fist should also not much alter the present state of the peace process in the region as the stubborn and no compromising attitude of Mr. Asad had almost killed the Israeli-Syria track of the peace negotiations.

While his death should not change much in Iran-Syria or in Israeli-Syria relations, the focus of Iranian Middle East and Arab experts is turned to the post-Asad situation in Damascus, where, according to these analysts, a military coup by some army officers looks "quite possible", particularly since Mr. Bashar, the son Mr. Asad was forming fast as his successor does not look ready to seat behind the wheel. ENDS ASAD 10600
 


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