Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Lowbacca_1977, Jan 28, 2011.
Pocket'd. Will watch when niece is not around
A cleric in Iran's government that used to be the leader of the Basij militia has reportedly said that Syria's strategic importance for Iran is so great that if a hypothetical enemy was attacking Syria and the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan (the life-blood of the Iranian economy, basically) at once, the priority would be to defend Syria. The reason being that "if we can hold Syria, we can take Khuzestan back as well, but if we lose Syria, we lose Tehran", meaning that without Syria, the Iranian regime's days are numbered as well. Needless to say, his remark has sparked a great deal of controversy, seeing as if you omit the latter reasoning behind the statement, it sounds like he holds the defense of foreigners in higher regard than the defense of his own country's citizens.
However, this is an indication of Syria's strategic value to Iran, or at least its perceived value. I can foresee the Islamic Republic's paranoia and repression crank up to 11 once it loses Syria.
I don't have the source on me right now, but Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with Syrian rebel groups in Rome earlier today (at the same time the Pope was abdicating), and it seems the U.S. has agreed to send more aid to the rebels and perhaps military aid of some form.
The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers...
Yeah, we gave them another 60 million today.
I'm really feeling baffled about why Iran hugs Syria. I assume it's because Syria's their last remaining ally in the region-they never had many to begin with because of the Shia-Sunni split, and things just got steadily worse after the Iran-Iraq war, when the Gulf Arabs very clearly and publically sided against Iran.
Iran isn't even really the problem here, it's Russia.
Syria is host of the last Russian military base outside of the old USSR (Meggido or Tartarus or some other apocalyptic-sounding name).
Interesting, didn't know the Russians still had a base there.
Yeah, I learned about that when I heard some interesting history/military trivia. The U.S. military has only entered DEFCON 3 just three times in history: 9/11, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Yom Kippur War. Why during the Yom Kippur War? Russia wanted to protect its military base in Syria against Israel/US (if Israel were to invade Syria), and basically said it was willing to nuke the United States and Israel to keep that base in Syria. So yeah, Russia has been willing to go to World War III over that base in Syria, and they seem as defensive about it now as they did then too. Who knows why.
Mmm...been awhile since I read about the Yom Kippur War, but I think I remember that, now. I'm guessing it's a port? Russian access to ports that don't get frozen has always been a problem for them, I imagine that might be it.
However it seems like a very minor facility. I can't see the Russians being willing to stick their neck out too much for a single pier that can't service their major warships.
Yeah, that's it.
(Tartarus, Tartus, I was close )
You can tell why it's important, but not why Russia is willing to go to nuclear war over it. There must be something else there too that they aren't willing to disclose.
Well, was/is-there was a distinct danger of the Israelis overrunning Damascus in 73; they finally stopped barely forty miles away, iirc.
Edit-plus, in wartime (yes silly but Russians care about these things) sailing back into the Black Sea effectively means that warship probably isn't leaving again. Keeps ships trapped in the Black Sea would be a pretty easy effort for NATO.
Yes, but was losing this small port worth a nuclear war back in 73?
And why is it still so relevant to Russian interests now, that they're actively arming the Syrian government so Assad can stay in power and they can keep Tartus?
Something is missing.
Brevhnev was always quite willing to deal the nuclear card-he also placed airborne troops on alert for the 73 war, if I remember correctly.
I don't think the Russians are specifically concerned about the port in particular so much as the guarantee of friendly relations-the rest of the ME is probably more US/West-aligned now, besides Iran, which isn't historically buddies with Russia anyway. Syria was about it for a dependable ally in the region-the USSR never made a significant ideological penetration in the area to begin with, and what major allies they scored (specifically Egypt) kicked them out decades ago.
Well, maybe if they were more cooperative with the West, and stopped arming the governments everyone else in the region hates, all of our allies would be their allies too...
(though, to be fair, not all of our allies are sustainable)
Eh...maybe. I tend to think that the Russian ideological baggage from the cold war still kinda makes Arabs suspicious of them-they do not like being told how to run their countries (dictators tend to be suspicious of that ) and the US/NATO "look just sell us oil and don't be commies, and beyond that we don't care" message translated a whole lot better when the competition was still to be had.
It's funny how it's kind of reversed now, with the U.S. trying to encourage democracy and human rights, and Russia/China saying that countries should stay out of other countries' internal affairs.
Yet Russia makes one exception... with Syria.
I think it's the transit to Lebanon and Hezbollah that makes it of particular value. Iran's only way of wielding power against the West, and pretty much its only leverage or deterrence is its ability to create headaches for the US and Israel through its proxies. Part of the caution and reluctance to attack Iran stems from that ability, I think. Not that they're not engaged in various terrorist attacks already from time to time, but if threatened, Iran can step up its proxy efforts, and I think the West does fear a regional war spilling over into Syria and Lebanon if they invade Iran. I think if it wasn't for that concern, we wouldn't have seen the amount of holding back that we've seen and a war may had broken out by now.
The other factor that is not to be underestimated is the IR's desire of wielding populistic "soft power", of reaching the hearts and minds of the "Arab street". Prior to the Arab Spring, Iran could play up the fact that the entire region besides Iran and Syria are allies and "stooges" of the US, and to varying degrees there admittedly are some stooges. The IR did and still does make a big deal about this in the worldview that it sells. It's the cusp of its ideological rivalry with the other governments of the region. It did work to some extent. The Arab populations were more sympathetic to Iran than you'd assume from their rulers, but the Arab Spring has changed this. Now, Egypt and Tunisia have elected governments of their own and the IR is now irrelevant. The Arab populations are no longer dependent on Iran to "stand up to the West". Not to mention the 2009 crackdowns probably disillusioned many Arabs as well that may have looked up to Iran as a model before. It showed that it's not as legitimate and representative of its people as it lets on. I think the IR sees that it has lost the battle of populism and can't compete with the more appealing promise of the Arab Spring. But it still has the Hezbollah-Hamas-link as its only remaining popularity card, as a symbol of their "resistance movement", and to maintain it they need Syria.
As for Russia, we in the West tend to look at the issue of Islamic terrorism and extremism from the prism of 9/11, the War on Terror and the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we forget that Russia also deals with this on a regular basis in the Caucasus with the Dagestan and South-Ossetia secessionist terrorist groups, not to mention its long war with Afghanistan in the Soviet era, during which they fought a long battle against fundamentalist Mujahideen, some of the same people that would later become the Taliban. I think Russia's reluctance to let go of Assad is simply out of worry for what might follow him, so they try to cling to the status quo for as long as they can. The other thing is that intervening in Syria creates a precedent and legitimacy for aiding popular struggles against governments that I don't think Putin and Medvedev care for very much.
Yeah, I agree with most of your take here. Just one thing off... Hamas broke off ties with Iran, and is now much closer to Egypt. So it's basically just Hezbollah now, for proxies, right?
I just wasn't sure if there was anyone else that the news doesn't cover, since you seem to be the expert on Iran
Does anyone know how much taking out Assad in Syria would really hurt the Iran/Hezbollah alliance? And what is the status of Hezbollah in Lebanon right now, are they rising or falling? The Arab Spring seems to have completely stayed out of that country.
You may recall the article I posted a while ago about the media in Lebanon? I'm not much of an expert on that country, but apparently the news media there is so divided and biased to their various respective owners and benefactors that events have 3 or 4 different versions, depending on which channel you watch and what spin your political camp adheres to. Consequently, as is not difficult to imagine, the political convictions of those who are engrossed with politics is also proportionately polarized. While for most people, there has been so much internal conflict and violence over the years, and political discourse is so bitterly polarized that they're just jaded. People are tired and apathetic. I was watching a program on Lebanon on TV where this one politician said "When there is a fight to be had anywhere in the Middle East, they come over to Lebanon and they fight it here." A depressing thought.
I heard that supposedly Iran wants to keep Syria as an ally because Assad's Alawite sect is a variation of Shia Islam, and along with Iraq and Iran they're the only bastions of Shi'ism in the Middle East arrayed against the Sunni nations of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and (I think) Turkey.
While that might be a small part of the equation, it's not really that important to the Iranians. Plus there's other Shia nations too.
Plus, if Wikipedia is to be trusted on the matter, Alawism is barely even compatible with Islam. From what I read about it, they hold some tenets that would be considered blasphemous to Sunnis and Shiites alike. I don't think there's a religious reasoning behind their alliance.
I'm reading this book about the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, and the author is going into how it was Russia's way of getting back at the West for recognizing Kosovo's independence. Basically, Russia was really pissed about the whole intervention in the Balkans thing because it was done by NATO without authorization from the U.N. Security Council. Russia has a veto on the Security Council, and if America and its allies bypass it then that veto suddenly has a whole lot less power. Also, whenever America reluctantly undertakes a humanitarian intervention and calls it a limited war, Russia sees an all-out shock-and-awe display of military power that chips away at its sphere of influence and erodes its veto power at the Security Council. This is what happened during the Balkans intervention, and it explains why Russia made such a huge fuss over Libya and how it "turned into regime change". And if you think about Syria with its closer proximity to Russia and that naval base, it's got to be all the more important to Russia than Libya was. If Assad falls, then Russia loses an ally and "the enemy" gains an ally, hence Russia's shipping of arms to Assad. Given that Russia already went berserk about the Libya intervention, it probably explains why we're not willing to intervene in Syria...we're already hesitant enough about taking on another intervention, but the thought of sending Russia into a frenzy probably doesn't appeal to the Obama administration.