New alliance emerging in the Middle East
By: Samuel Segev
25/08/2009 1:00 AM
TEL AVIV -- Syrian President Bashar Assad's visit to Tehran last week has revealed a new regional element that has been largely ignored by Western observers. Assad's visit was officially described as a goodwill trip to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his re-election as Iran's president. But what came out following Assad's meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, was an idea for an unofficial quadripartite alliance between Syria and Iran, with Turkey and Iraq joining.
Israeli sources anticipated such a proposal. They said that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was not ignorant to this idea. While officially struggling to join the European Union, Turkey has begun to accept the possibility that its European dreams are unlikely to materialize. At the same time, Turkey's hopes for a mediating role in peace talks between Israel and Syria, are also beginning to fade. Israel now insists on direct negotiations with Damascus.
Assad's visit to Tehran was a kind of a slap in the face to President Barack Obama. Assad is the only Arab (or foreign) head of state to congratulate Ahmadinejad in person in Tehran.
In anticipation of Obama's major foreign policy speech at the UN General Assembly in New York in mid-September, Assad decided to keep all his foreign policy options open. Hence, and contrary to his "neutral" stance in the Lebanese parliamentary elections in early June, Assad is now very much, and discreetly, involved in the coalition-making efforts in Beirut. Syria is supporting its traditional allies -- Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun's party -- with the aim of giving them a practical veto-power over all future government decisions.
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