The flurry of news around Syria and Iran might look chaotic at first glance, but as pieces slowly form the puzzle, the “big picture” is becoming more or less clear.
Syria is just a transitory object for Western pressure. The real long-term targets are Iran and in future, most probably, Russia. Fruitless talks on the Iranian nuclear program in Moscow and the still raging Western media campaign on presumed deliveries of Russian arms to Syria reveal the general vector of the strategies of the US and the EU better than any official statements. The question remains, although: are the United States and the European Union ready for ANY kind of compromise?
Talks between the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jallili ended in Moscow with no result in terms of nuclear security. But, obviously, the results desired by the EU and the United States lay in a very different field. Catherine Ashton’s spokesman, Michael Mann, told reporters in Moscow that there remained “no doubt” that economic sanctions, imposed on Iran by the EU, will gain full force on July 1, as scheduled. After two days of intense talks in Moscow, the EU diplomats can say that they did everything possible to avert confrontation with Iran. And Michael Mann indicated that the EU wanted to see some steps from the Iranian side before it would compromise itself.
What can those steps be? Obviously, Iran, seeing the developments in Syria, its ally which is facing an attempt of a foreign-sponsored “regime change,” may be tempted to protect its sovereignty by all possible means. So, the Syrian example, instead of dissuading Iran from the “nuclear option” for its defense, may work in a counterproductive way, encouraging Iran to arm itself in order to avoid the fate of Syria or something even worse. The situation is entering a vicious circle: the more Western powers increase their pressure on Iran and Syria, the more Tehran may be tempted to try the last resort. Economic deprivation does not help neither.
“The West is directing its efforts to weakening the Iranian regime,” said Sergei Demidenko, an expert of the Moscow-based Institute for Strategic Analysis. “Right now, anticipation of war can be even more damaging for Iran than war itself. The West is scaring Iran so that it would spend all its money on defense.”
Western proven arms’ sales to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s enemy and one of the perpetrators of the revolt in Syria somehow attract a lot more attention in the global media than Russia’s alleged arms shipments to Syria, even though Saudi Arabia makes little secret of its intention to pass a lot of their newly bought weapons to Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia’s recent contract with Germany, formalizing the sales of 600-800 German made tanks to Riyadh, did not awaken any concerns, even though similar sales in the 1990s, made in a legally incorrect way with some help from corrupt officials, had prompted one of Germany’s biggest journalist investigations against Helmuth Kohl’s government several years ago.
Saudi Arabia’a growing military might gives Iran one more reason to rearm, since the Sunni-dominated Saudi monarchy is known for its animosity to Iran, a traditional realm of the Shia branch of Islam. A few months ago, Wikileaks divulged American diplomatic cables on Saudi king Abdullah’s intention “to cut the head of the [Iranian] snake.” History does not provide Iran with a feeling of security: it is also widely known that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was supported in his 1980 aggression against Iran by Saudi Arabia and most of the “oil monarchies” of the Persian Gulf. Wikileaks’ revelations, depicting the events in the Middle East as a Sunni-Shia conflict and not as “a march for democracy” could be one of the main reasons why its former head Julian Assange preferred asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy to possible extradition to the United States.
Somehow, the rearmament of the Gulf states, Bahrain’s repressions against its Shia majority and direct military aid from Qatar and Saudi Arabia to the Syrian opposition do not make headlines in the West. But movements of Russian marines’ vessels in the Black sea do. Several newspapers, including Russian ones, “dispatched” Russian Black sea fleet warships Caesar Kunikov and Nikolai Filchenkov to Syria, even though what indeed took place next to the two ships’ base in Sebastopol was just a routine exercise, after which both vessels returned to their base the same day. The strange story with British media suddenly becoming 100 percent sure that a Russian-owned vessel, MV Alaed, was carrying attack helicopters and coastal anti-ship missiles “somewhere off the coast of Scotland” also lacks clarifications. But the British foreign secretary William Hague made a special statement about it in the House of Commons. Obviously, in modern politics, politicians do not shy away from participating in media games.
“What is important is that the Western audience had these words crammed in its head: Russia – ships – troops –arms –Syria. How much truth is behind these words, will the suspicions be proved in 2-3 weeks or even 2-3 days is indeed not so important,” said Konstantin Bogdanov, an analyst on the military matters at the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
What is important for Russia and for the majority of other countries of the world is the question: are Western leaders going to compromise on any of their “revolutionary” plans for the Middle East? For the moment, signs are not very reassuring. The next talks of the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany (5+1) with Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program are scheduled to start on July 1 in Istanbul. So, there is still some room for compromise.