Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1255, (23 - 29 July 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1255, (23 - 29 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Syrian concern over Iran deal

The Syrian opposition is deeply concerned over last week’s nuclear deal with Iran, writes Bassel Oudat in Damascus

Al-Ahram Weekly

Most Syrians are troubled by last week’s deal on the Iranian nuclear programme, with the opposition particularly worried that the deal may contain secret clauses that allow Iran to expand its influence in the region.

Only the Syrian regime is delighted at the agreement, calling it a “victory” for Iran and its friends. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad sent two cables congratulating Iran’s supreme leader and president on the deal and voicing his hope that Iran will “continue to support its friends” in the region and the world.

The Iranian prime minister said that the unfreezing of Iranian assets as a result of the successful negotiations will help Tehran boost its investment in Syria.

On the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of Ramadan, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran will continue to support “its friends in the region, the persecuted people of Palestine and Yemen, the people and governments of Syria and Iraq, the persecuted people of Bahrain, and the valiant fighters of the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine.”

Syria’s largest coalition of opposition groups, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF), said the agreement will encourage Iran to step up its support for the Al-Assad regime.

However, it also voiced hopes that Iran will review its policies in Syria and put pressure on Al-Assad to reach a negotiated deal compatible with the principles approved in the Geneva talks.

Michel Kilo, a key opposition figure, said the deal is unsatisfactory because the P5+1 group of countries negotiating with Iran will not be able to make Iran follow a “peaceful strategy that preserves the safety of neighbouring countries.”

Speaking to the Weekly, Kilo voiced his concern that Iran will continue to support and fund military conflicts across the region. What is harmful to the region is not Iran’s nuclear programme, he said, but its “interventionist strategy.”

According to Kilo, Iran is now in a position to continue “threatening its neighbours and imposing itself as a dominant regional power.” Other Syrian opposition members, however, believe that the West has not given Iran permission to increase its influence in the region through the deal.

Said Louay Safi, the former NSCROF spokesman, “Contrary to what the Arab media claims, there is no Western-Iranian deal allowing Tehran to increase its influence in the Levant.”

But Safi is concerned about Iran’s rising economic power. Iran, he said, might be able to “increase its influence as a side-effect of its economic revival.” With more funds, Iran is “likely to fund its expansionist project in the Levant,” he said.

Another opposition figure said the Iranian deal should motivate the Syrians to find a negotiated settlement of their own. Munir Darwish said the deal proves that adversaries can “settle differences through peaceful means,” urging a political settlement “based on justice, equality among citizens and democratisation” as the only way to “avoid war and preserve peace.”

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the most likely outcome of the Iranian deal. The Iranians have made no reference to reconciliation and have instead referred to their role in helping the “persecuted” nations of the Arab world and boosting the “valiant” fighters of the “resistance.”

If the past is anything to go by, Iran is likely to see the deal as a green light to continue meddling in the region.

Will the West condone such interference? The answer to this will not be found in the clauses of the current deal, or in imagined secret provisions, but instead in the manner in which Western diplomacy unfolds in the future.

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