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Friday, November 02, 2007

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor: After U.S. Withdrawal, Gulf Will Be ‘Under the Siege of the Islamic Revolution and Under the Pressure of Syrian Meddling’

In an editorial titled "[The] American Withdrawal and the Second Stage," published October 9, 2007 in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, editor Tariq Alhomayed warned of what might happen after the U.S. withdraws its forces from Iraq. He argued that Iraq would be taken over by Iran and Syria, which are seeking to dominate the Middle East, and that the result would be the spread of extremism and violence throughout the region.

The following are excerpts from the article, as it appeared in the English edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. [1]

"In preparation for the American withdrawal from Iraq, activity is in full swing to fill the imminent vacuum in Baghdad. "The Iranians are not the only ones who are preparing for this; the Syrians are also getting ready. A recent report in TheNew York Times details Syria’s intentions towards Baghdad. "Iran has, in fact, been present in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. As for Syria, it has been one of the [elements] disrupting the Iraqi project... from afar. Nevertheless, what is new today is Damascus’s endeavor to reorganize the Ba'thist [elements] - rather than the Sunni elements, as is commonly believed - in order to ensure Syrian influence in Iraq. "In his interview with the BBC, the Syrian president stated that his country has influence over Lebanon; an influence that he described as positive. We all know that this is not true. This is the problem with Syria, and [with] Iran before it. The intervention of both countries can never be positive. Syria and Iran are two [regimes] that are not in accord with the future... "It is from here that the Arab world’s problem arises, since Iran and Syria are the two key political players today. "Syria wants [to gain] the Golan Heights without war, and wants to win America over without having to adopt a moderate approach or refrain from interfering in Lebanon or Iraq. At the same time, it denounces other Arab countries as traitors because of their relationship with Washington. Meanwhile, President Bashar Assad himself stated in a recent interview that Washington must be a third party to ensure peace with Tel Aviv. "It is for this reason that Damascus, like Iran, is playing the card of Hamas - a movement affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood - while suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Damascus is also playing the card of Shi'ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is now [building up] the Ba'th party of Iraq under the 'Sunni' umbrella in Baghdad, just as Iran stifles the Sunnis of Iran but allies [itself] with Hamas! "Iran, by imposing a fait accompli or reaching an agreement with the United States, wants to dominate the Arab world and to resume exporting the Islamic revolution. "All this is taking place in light of what can be mildly described as a decline in Arab action vis-à-vis Tehran, Damascus, and the deteriorating situation in Iraq. This [activity] is not [intended] to belittle Tehran or Damascus, or to take control over Iraq, but rather to establish stability in the region and to prevent all the manipulators from manipulating the Arab countries and from disrupting development projects and [projects meant to] free [the Arab countries] of Iranian influence and Syrian manipulation. "This is the main problem. America will leave the region and we will find ourselves opening a new chapter that is no better than where we are today. After Iraq and Lebanon are devoured by Iran and Syria, the Gulf region will [find itself] under the siege of the Islamic revolution and under pressure from Syrian meddling. In this case, [our only option will be] to welcome the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, which will establish their own branches in many Arab countries with Iranian sponsorship and Syrian support. "It is then that we will see many Khaled Mash'als, Hassan Nasrallahs, and Rustum Ghazalis, as well as [numerous] armed forces whose names will begin with 'Jerusalem,' and we do not know where all this will end. Therefore, in light of the American withdrawal and the lack of Arab action, the region will witness its second downfall - but this time, it will be at the hand of Tehran and Damascus. "As the popular saying goes: with friends like these, who needs enemies?"

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