Bashar Assad is the only Arab leader (leader?) who commented on the nuclear agreement. In the flattery letters he sent to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and to President Hassan Rouhani, he praises the “great achievement” and offers his own evaluation of the situation: This agreement, he states, will actually contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East.
Put simply, the agreement with Iran promises Bashar that the Islamic Republic will continue to support him and fund the military aid and everything required for his survival. As long as Iran is not producing a bomb, the Syrian field will not be touched.
And then Assad was caught in front of the cameras in a weird event: The inauguration ceremony of the Quran, written in user-friendly letters instead of the cursive style. He praised the 27 Muslim calligraphy experts who worked on it and teased the Islamic State, explaining that “the new version of the Quran is aimed at curbing distortions which will justify acts of murder in the name of Islam.”
Bashar, it should be mentioned, is a member of the Alawite minority faction. But he cunningly succeeded in organizing for himself an umbrella of religious scholars from the Sunni faction, which the ISIS murderers belong to.
Bashar has a good reason to smile. The Vienna agreement authorizes the Iranian aid, and he stands to benefit the most. No one had demanded to expel him, no one has made any comments to the Iranian delegation about the financial aid to the organizations in Syria ($6-35 billion a year), about the weapon shipments, about the murder of civilians sponsored by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and about Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force – the Guard’s elite unit – who has turned Syria and Bashar’s “palace of the people” into his private playground.
None of the negotiators in Vienna took advantage of the rare opportunity vis-à-vis the Iranians to complain to them. Some 230,000 have died in Syria, there are 11 million refugees and displaced citizens, injured, disabled, widows and orphans, and who knows how many missing people are buried under the ground or have been thrown in jail.
From what I hear, the United States and the five countries involved in the agreement actually liked the precedent of holding group negotiations vis-à-vis one rebellious country. US Secretary of State John Kerry has a new friend, Javad Zarif from Tehran. We should take into consideration the possibility that in light of the precedent of the nuclear agreement, the six “Vienna graduates” will now suggest preparing for negotiations on Syria’s future, together with Kerry’s friend.
Until the parties convene, they will find themselves facing Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who will demand to add chairs to the negotiating table. Will they even demand to get rid of Bashar? Does he have a replacement? What Syria will they talk about – a country in which one-third of the citizens have run for their lives? The “Damascus district” and the cantons in the north and in the south? Does anyone really want to throw Bashar out and leave a dangerous playground for ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra?
The removal of the sanctions imposed on Iran, release of $150 billion frozen abroad, cancellation of the arms embargo and opening the gates to the business community are like honey dripping on Bashar’s ears. The regime in Tehran wants him. Khamenei swore on Saturday that “we will not abandon our friend in the region.” The Revolutionary Guards know exactly who they are dealing with. Bashar is the most convenient. The Iranians want Syria to remain the transit stop for Hezbollah in Lebanon and an exit to the Mediterranean Sea.
With Iran’s new status, there will be no problem bolstering the palace, the army and Syria’s security organizations. All Assad had to do – like Rouhani, and like the agreement’s six foreign ministers – is to declaim that he is joining the battle against ISIS and the terror organizations. Everything else will be okay. Bashar trusts the Iranians.