Watchman Newsletter

Why Iran Is Sweating Bullets

The Trumpet (Link) - Brad Macdonald (March 31, 2011)

When it comes to understanding Middle East geopolitics, one question brings terrific clarity: Does this work to the advantage of Iran?

Generally speaking, if an event, decision or circumstance pleases Iran, it will come with negative repercussions for Israel, America or the broader Western community. If Iran is displeased�if sweat is pooling on the brows of Iran�s mullahs�the West must somehow be gaining an advantage. Consider the wave of anti-government uprisings rolling across the region. In virtually each case, be it Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain or Libya, Iran watched the chaos with an ear-to-ear grin. Why? Because in each instance Tehran knew the outcome would bolster its regional influence, either directly or via its radical Islamic proxies.

The only exception to this trend is the unrest in Syria�which has the mullahs in Iran sweating bullets!

Sporadic anti-government demonstrations have occurred throughout Syria since late January. Until recently, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had no trouble quieting the dissent, often with brutal force. Two weeks ago, the unrest reached critical mass when government security forces used live ammunition to disperse a crowd of demonstrators in Daraa, an impoverished city in southern Syria. The decision to quiet protesters by killing some did not satisfy their demands for government reform. In fact, it inspired more angry Syrians to hit the streets in protest in cities across the country, including the capital, Damascus. Assad responded by dispatching security and military forces throughout Syria, shutting down electronic communications and getting tougher with protesters. Amid the crackdowns, thousands have been arrested, hundreds injured and more than 100 killed, many shot.

As pressure mounts on Assad and Syria approaches a tipping point, it is important to consider events in the regional context. This means setting Syria�s anti-government protests against Iran�s overarching strategy in the Middle East, which is to undermine and remove Western-friendly governments, replace them with Iran-friendly administrations, and ultimately forge itself as the unrivaled regional power. When it comes to Iran�s regional aspirations, 2011 has unfolded splendidly.

Until this week.

In Middle East geopolitics, Syria is to Iran what Robin is to Batman: Iran�s faithful, hardworking, generally submissive accomplice. Although their religious underpinnings aren�t perfectly aligned, Tehran and Damascus (under Assad�s leadership) are on the same page ideologically and on most of the region�s political and strategic issues.

The Assad regime is Iran�s most important ally in the Middle East. The two work in cahoots on all levels. For example, Syria is the primary transit hub for weapons flowing from Iran to southern Lebanon, Gaza and Israel. Earlier this month, Israel�s navy seized a ship carrying a load of weapons that it said were sent by Iran and Syria to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Syria is more than just a pack mule for Iranian artillery; Assad has forged Syria as a willing supporter, and even an extension, of Iran�s rogue nuclear weapons program.

Strategically, Syria is the most important staging ground for Islamic terrorism in the Middle East outside of Iran. It has been the predominant launching pad for al Qaeda operatives en route to Iraq. Outside of Tehran, Damascus is the primary refuge and meeting point for the likes of Hezbollah, Hamas and sundry Palestinian terrorist organizations. Key terrorist leaders, such as Hamas�s political leader Khaled Mashal, live and operate in Damascus. For years, Damascus under Assad has been the securest place outside of Tehran for meetings between Iran and Hezbollah, its most important proxy.

Syria is the keystone of the pro-Iran axis,� wrote Itamar Rabinovich, Israel�s former chief negotiator with Syria, on Sunday. �Weakening the Assad regime, to say nothing of its collapse, would be a blow to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah� (emphasis mine throughout).

Put slightly differently, Syria is an asset that Iran will go to great lengths to defend!

It is no surprise then that Iran has rushed to Assad�s aid. Earlier this month, Syrian opposition reported that Iran had dispatched hundreds of elite commandos from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Syria. In addition to Iranian forces, Hezbollah operatives have also been sent to assist in curtailing the unrest. Citing opposition sources, the World Tribune reported recently that both the IRGC and Hezbollah are �providing anti-riot, armored and air support for Assad�s military and security agencies.�

Regarding the reports of Iranian and Hezbollah forces being �deeply involved in the violent repression of protesters in Syria,� Caroline Glick noted this week that �their involvement is apparently so widespread that among the various chants adopted by the protesters is a call for the eradication of Hezbollah.�

That Assad enjoys Iran�s support partially explains the remarkable confidence behind his speech yesterday to the Syrian Parliament. When word spread earlier this week that Assad would speak to the public Wednesday, anti-government protesters and Western media pundits breathed a collective sigh of relief. Many believed that Assad, facing intense civil unrest and growing international pressure, was about to announce significant reforms, including the lifting of the state of emergency that has existed since 1963 and has underpinned his Baath Party�s grip on power over the past 48 years.

Yet Assad didn�t even deliver token concessions. Instead, to well-choreographed applause from sycophantic politicians, Assad smilingly said that the unrest was largely the result of �the plots that [have been] hatched against our country.� While he admitted that the Syrian people have some demands that have not been met, he said their complaints were being �used as a cover to dupe the people to go to the streets.� Instead of caving to pressure, Assad made it clear that he is not going anywhere.

Assad knows that he is of vital strategic importance to Iran and Hezbollah and remains confident that both will continue to stand by his side.

While Assad remains energized and up for further conflict, so too do the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters. Following that speech yesterday, the opposition group Syria Revolution 2011 called for an immediate uprising and encouraged citizens to rebel and take control of the cities. With more protests likely in the comings days, and the Assad regime refusing to compromise, unrest and violence in Syria could get a lot messier.

So far, the United States and other Western countries have been determined not to get entangled with the Syrian uprisings. Beyond the requisite verbal condemnations and typical circumlocution, Washington has kept the issue at arm�s length. If the opposition forces remain energized, and Assad remains determined to respond with violence and brutality, this will not last. At some point, America will have to make a decision.

Judging by precedent, as well as the few remarks made about Syria by U.S. leaders thus far, America will likely come down on the wrong side of history. In the Middle East, it seems America�s chief foreign-policy goal is to do whatever is necessary not to upset Iran. In Egypt, Yemen and Libya, this meant supporting the ouster of the incumbent governments. In the case of Syria, pleasing Iran would mean refraining from doing anything that might destabilize the Assad regime.

The current unrest in Syria actually raises the prospect of prying that country away from Iran and thus inflicting a painful blow to Tehran�s mullahs. It wouldn�t be easy, but it could go a long way toward checking the number one sponsor of terrorism and violence in the Middle East. More than likely though, that won�t happen, because America is afraid to confront Iran.

Even so, Bible prophecy does in fact reveal that a split between Iran and Syria is inevitable. You can find this fascinating prophecy in Psalm 83. Between this prophecy and the prophecy in Daniel 11:40, we learn that in the end time the Arab Middle East is to be divided into two camps. The first is a radical Islamic camp, headed by Iran and including Iraq and Egypt. The second camp is comprised of more �moderate� Arab states that eventually align with a German-led European empire.

Syria, the Bible foretells, will fall into the second camp. This means, sooner or later, one way or another�and perhaps even as a result of the current crisis, which is fluid and evolving daily�Iran will lose its most pivotal ally. Iran�s mullahs ought to be sweating. Not because the United States is about to exploit the unrest in Syria to drive a wedge between Tehran and Damascus�but because Bible prophecy says a divorce is inevitable. �

Gog/Magog ~ Iran ~ Isaiah 17 ~ Islam