DAMASCUS-TEHRAN 8 Oct. (IPS) Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and his Syrian host Bashar Asad discussed best ways and means to form a new anti-American-Israeli axis to take off pressures Washington and Tel Aviv are putting on them.
The embattled Iranian President confirmed on Friday that the two countries would expand their cooperation in the face of mounting pressures from the United States and Israel as well as foster peace in the troubled region of Middle East.
The Iranian embattled President arrived in Damascus early Thursday morning at the end of an official visit to the neighbouring kingdom of Muscat and Oman, the last leg of a weeklong trip to African Arab nations of Algeria and Sudan.
The unscheduled visit came at a time that both countries, staunch opponents of the United States and Israel, are under increased international pressures, accused of derailing peace efforts by providing military, logistic and financial assistance to Palestinian and Arab radical groups opposed to peace with the Jewish State.
A new high command is taking shape, formed by the Hezbollah, HAMAS, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
While the Iranian ruling ayatollahs are suspected of leaving no stone unturned in order to become a nuclear power, Syria, for its part, is under international pressure because of its “satellisation” of Lebanon.
"These pressures have always existed and we have to neutralize them through our cooperation", the official news agencies of both countries reported Khatami as saying in Damascus at the start of his visit to Syria.
Both Tehran and Damascus are also suspected by Washington of being behind Iraq’s insurgency by leaving their porous borders open to Arab and Muslim fighters, known as “jihadis” the remnants of Osama Ben Laden’s “Al-Qa’eda” network that masterminded the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington D.C.
According to Mr. Patrick Seale, a well-known British journalist based in Paris, under the auspices of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a new and “much dangerous” alliance is taking shape uniting for the first time Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in the one hand and Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah with hard line Palestinian groups assisted by Damascus.
“A new high command is taking shape, formed by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’a movement that booted out Israel from southern Lebanon, HAMAS, the Palestinian resistance movement that has overshadowed the Palestinian Authority of Yaser Arafat as a spearhead of resistance to Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood, represented in the occupied territories by the Islamic Jihad and last but not least, the Islamic Republic of Iran”, Mr. Seale, author of a biography of the former Syrian strongman Hafez Asad wrote in the last edition of “Jeune Afrique-L’Intelligent” dated 3 to 9 October 2004.
“The particularity of this new alliance is that first of all, it abolishes the Shi’a-Sunni division among Muslims and also reunites Arab nationalists and islamists under one common flag. There is no more differences between resistance and jihadis”, he added, quoting one western intelligence source.
Khatami-Bashar talks also focused on ways of maintaining stability in the Middle East in view of escalated Israeli violence and developments in neighbouring Iraq, where both Syria and Iran strongly oppose the presence of American forces.
"In our meetings we will try to cooperate toward ensuring calm and stability in the crisis-ridden Middle East region", Khatami said. "The situation is getting more perilous because of the inhuman and violent actions of the Zionist regime", he added.
“The visit took place at a time when great pressure is being exerted on Syria, as a significant regional country, by the US, Zionist regime and some Western countries”, the official Iranian news agency IRNA commented, referring to a recent UN-based measure, sponsored by Washington and Paris, urging Syria to pull its 40.000 strong troops out of neighbouring Lebanon.
Khatam-Bashar talks also focused on ways of maintaining stability in view of escalated Israeli violence and developments in neighbouring Iraq.
Bowing to the move, Syria returned around 10.000 soldiers from around Beirut.
Syria's support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups and allegations Damascus was pursuing weapons of mass destruction were among key reasons behind U.S. economic sanctions in May.
“Political experts call Khatami’s visit to Syria as being “important”, believing that it would consolidate Syrian position in this critical situation”, the agency added, failing to mention Iran’s growing troubles with the United States, European Union’s so-called Big trio of Britain, France and Germany and the the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear projects as well as Iran’s isolation in both the international community and the Arab and Muslim worlds.
In the past two decades, Iran and Syria have been enjoying close strategic relations based on their bilateral interests, as Damascus ruled by a rival faction of the Ba'th Party, was the only Arab nation that sided with non Arab Iran when the now toppled Saddam Hussein attacked it on September 1980.This is Khatami’s fourth trip to Syria.
Both presidents condemned the massacre of innocent Muslims in the occupied Palestine and called on the international community to react against the Zionist regime’s crimes, IRNA reported, as Mr. Khatami returned to Tehran on Friday.
This was Khatami's fourth official visit to Syria. The younger Asad came to Tehran three times.
According to Mr. Seale, American unilateral and systematic backing of Israel’s hard line Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in crushing the Palestinians in the one hand and American-Israeli’s menaces against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear ambitions are among major factors “explaining” the new mobilisation, “better organised and more determined. ENDS IRAN SYRIA 81004