by Joseph Puder
What one does not hear from the shrill chorus of the aforementioned voices is criticism of the Iranian occupation of Syria. There are no UN resolutions demanding Iranian withdrawal from Syria, or a firm U.S. government statement to that effect. This amounts to sheer hypocrisy and a double standard.
Most people immersed in Middle Eastern affairs have heard the charge, ad-nauseam, “Israeli occupation” of the West Bank. The United Nations (UN) agencies, the European Union (EU), large segments of the American and European media, and many of the so called human rights watchdogs have been critical of Israel’s “occupation,” albeit the Jewish state has attempted to make peace with the Arab states and the Palestinians all along. Moreover, UN Security Council Resolution 242 considered the West Bank “disputed territory.” What one does not hear from the shrill chorus of the aforementioned voices is criticism of the Iranian occupation of Syria. There are no UN resolutions demanding Iranian withdrawal from Syria, or a firm U.S. government statement to that effect. This amounts to sheer hypocrisy and a double standard.
The current fighting in the Syrian civil war is being directed, fought, and funded by the Islamic republic of Iran. It employs the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) and Lebanese Hezbollah in the fighting, as well as other non-Syrian Shiite militias (essentially Iraqis). They were moved to Syria with Iranian funds. The Alawi-led (Alawi’s are a breakaway sect of Shiite Islam) Assad regime would not have survived without the direct intervention of the Iranian regime. Whereas prior to the March, 2011 civil war in Syria, Tehran and Damascus have had a mutually beneficial alliance, which has now become one where Iran is the dominant force in the territories still controlled by the Assad regime.
Shiar Youssef, head of the Naame Shaam’s Research and Advocacy Team had this to say about the Iranian involvement, “There is sufficient evidence to try the military and political leadership of Iran for complicity in various crimes committed in Syria. This ranges from inciting, endorsing, and adopting specific criminal and terrorist acts to aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Youssef added, “The Syrian regime is little more than a puppet in the hands of the Sepah Pasdaran (IRG), Qassem Soleimani is the de facto ruler of Iranian occupied Syria.”
Naame Shaam is an independent campaign group focusing on the Iranian regime’s role in Syria. It is a source of independent news commentary on the Syrian revolution and the Iranian regime’s role in suppressing it. The group is comprised of Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese activists and citizen-journalists. The group’s Campaign Director is Fouad Hamdan from Lebanon, and Shiar Youssef from Syria.
According to Naame Shaam, there is a legal case for treating the war in Syria as an international conflict that involves a foreign occupation by the Iranian regime and its militias, and a liberation struggle by Syrian people against this foreign occupation, as defined by the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Youssef charged that, “The war in Syria should be regarded as an international conflict that warrants the application of the four Geneva conventions. Regime-held areas in Syria should be considered – in the strict legal sense of the word - territory occupied by Iran.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, at a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on October 13, 2014, pointed out, “Iran must withdraw its occupying forces from Syria to help resolve the country’s conflict.” He added, “In many conflicts, Iran is part of the problem, not the solution. In this case, we can say that Iranian forces in Syria are occupying forces aiding President Bashar al-Assad who is an ‘illegitimate’ leader.”
While Steinmeier viewed the Islamic State (IS) as a “threat to the entire world,” he failed to note that Iran is no less of a threat, and by all measures a much greater threat. Writing for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Andrew Nikolic asserted that “Admittedly ISIL (also known as ISIS and IS) cast a long and fearful shadow, but there are potentially worse – albeit quieter –threats lurking, which demand urgent attention. They include the maverick trifecta of Iran, Russia and North Korea. Unlike ISIL, each of those international ‘problem-states’ comes disproportionately better armed, including ready–made or emerging nuclear capability, accompanied by an unpredictable senior leadership.” Nikolic added, “Replace the ghastly spectre of ISIL‘s severed heads and slain thousands with an Iranian nuclear device used somewhere in the Middle East, and the mind is concentrated wonderfully about the broader potential for a worse crisis.”
It is not only the threat of a nuclear Iran that should frighten the free world. Iran’s sponsorship of worldwide terror, and it meddling throughout the Middle East, in its hegemonic drive to control the region and the world if possible, should cause free people everywhere sleepless nights.
Addressing the UN last September, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Make no mistake, ISIL must be defeated, but to defeat ISIL and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.” Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. stated that “(Iranians) are not a partner, they were not a partner, and they never will be a partner. Iran as a nuclear power is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS.” Dermer was referring to President Obama’s suggestion of cooperating with Iran on defeating ISIS.
U.S. President Barack Obama has been silent about Iran’s occupation of Syria. His inaction with regards to the Iranian/Assad atrocities against Syrian civilians is deafening. The Obama administration did nothing as the Syrian regime with Iranian and Hezbollah’s help destroyed Syria’s famed cities of Aleppo and Homs, long before the emergence of ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front. Obama’s red-line against Assad’s use of chemical weapons poisoning Syrian civilians was embarrassingly shelved.
The Obama administration, as expected, dismisses allegations of “coordination” with Iran. Yet, President Obama is pursuing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with letters offering cooperation, only to be dismissed. Khamenei keeps bashing the U.S., which refuses to get the message that Iran feels superior to the weak U.S. president and the morally rotting West.
Iran today controls Assad’s Syria and its IRG runs the show. Iran is also the dominant power in three other Arab capitals; Baghdad, Beirut, and Sanaa (Yemen). The Obama administration has increasingly acquiesced to the new Middle Eastern regional strategic balance. In fact, President Obama has stated that “Iran has influence over Shiites, both in Syria and Iraq, and we have a shared enemy in ISIL “
The International community led by the U.S. should demand the withdrawal of IRG and Hezbollah forces from Syria, while at the same time arming the Syrian opposition and combatting ISIL. There should be no lifting of economic sanctions on Iran if the Iranian regime fails to provide basic human rights. Nuclear negotiations with Iran should not be extended endlessly, allowing it to buy time in order to consolidate its dominance in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen as well as complete its nuclear weapons program. And finally, the U.S., its European allies, and the media, must clearly acknowledge and protest Iran’s occupation of Syria, and end their hypocritical singular focus on Israeli withdrawal.
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