by Jonathan Spyer
Presidents Ahmedinejad of Iran and Assad of Syria were there, alongside a beaming Khaled Mashaal of Hamas and Hizbullah General-Secretary Hassan Nasrallah. There were some lesser lights, too, to make up the numbers – including Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a fossil from the old alphabet soup of secular Palestinian groups.
The mood – replicated a few days later in Teheran – was one of jubilant defiance.
The reasons underlying
Adherents to this view see the Syrian regime as concerned solely with power and its retention. Given, they say, that
Once the appropriate incentive tips the balance, it is assumed, the regime in
The specific incentive required to perform this trick varies depending on who you ask. In
The logic of all these positions depends on the basic characterization of the Assad regime as ultimately motivated purely by Machiavellian power interests. This characterization remains received wisdom in Israeli and US policy circles to a far greater extent than the evidence for it warrants.
Western wooing of
The recently announced US decision to return an ambassador to Damascus was followed by the resistance jamboree in Damascus – in which Assad openly mocked US hopes for a Syrian "distancing" from Iran.
It has now been announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is considering a visit to
Which brings us back to the core question of Syrian motivation. Clearly, the Syrians have a habit of swallowing incentives and giving nothing in return. But if the alignment with
There are two possible answers. The first and most obvious one is that
But this explanation fails to account for the brazenness and fervor of
Rather, the Syrians believe that a profound restructuring of the balance of power is under way in the
This enables the aggressive, Islamist regime in Teheran to fill the vacuum. It also renders feasible policy options – such as direct confrontation with
The characterization of the young Syrian president and his regime as ultimately cool-headed and pragmatist is incorrect. The
In the 1990s, realities appeared to require a practical sidelining of this view. But the 1990s were over a while ago.
Regimes like that of the Assads (and even semi-farcical figures like old Jibril and his PFLP-GC) are not anomalies in the alliance based on Iranian ambition and regional Islamist fervor. Rather, they are natural partners, sharing a base-level understanding of the region, common enemies, and a common, brutal approach to asserting their interests.
It is for this core reason that attempts to prise Bashar Assad away from his natural habitat will continue to prove fruitless.
Jonathan Spyeris senior researcher at the Global Research in
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