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April 20, 2003


AMIR TAHERI, writing in New York Post
April 17, 2003 -- TWO weeks before the war to liberate Iraq began, Syria's President Bashar Assad made a visit to Tehran for 12 hours of "dense talks" with Iran's ruling mullahs. The visit, Bashar's fifth in two years, underlined his growing dependence on Iran as a regional ally. (By comparison, Bashar's father, the late President Hafez Assad, visited Tehran just once in his 30-year rule, and then only for six hours.) At the visit's end, officials on both sides spoke of the "strategic partnership" between the Syrian Ba'athist regime and the Khomeinist ruling clique in Tehran.

Both sides knew that the war had become inevitable and that Saddam's days were numbered. But they did not think the "Vampire of Baghdad" would fall so quickly.

Just days before the war Ali Khamenehi, the "Supreme Guide" of the ruling mullahs in Tehran, prophesied that Iraq would become " a quagmire" for the American "Great Satan," signaling its "final destruction." Bashar called on Arabs to prepare for "holy war" against "the invaders."

Tehran and Damascus did their best to prolong the war:
* Iraqi Shiite parties, financed by Iran and headquartered in Tehran, called on their brethren in Iraq not to cooperate with "the invading forces."

* Iranian "sleeper" terrorist cells in southern Iraq issued death threats against clerics who wished to welcome the coalition.

* Syria, for its part, began shipping Russian-made and other military equipment and spare parts, to Iraq while opening its borders to Arab " volunteers for martyrdom" who wished to fight to save Saddam.
With the fall of Saddam, the Syrian and Iranian regimes move to the top of the Richter scale for rogue states. Both have a record of sponsoring terrorism, have stockpiled chemical weapons and have a history of human-rights violations. Both know that they could be the next targets for regime change, not necessarily through direct U.S. military intervention.

The leadership elites in Damascus and Tehran are divided over how to cope with the new situation created in the region. One faction urges change to transform Iran and Syria from rogue states sponsoring terrorism into law-abiding ones keen to seek a role in building a new Middle East. Another faction wants to turn Iraq into "a giant-size West Bank" for the United States and organize a campaign of terror designed to wear out Washington's resolve and force it to withdraw from the region in despair.

The anti-reform factions in Tehran and Damascus are working hand in hand to prevent, or at least postpone, the emergence of a democratic system in Iraq. They are active on three fronts.

On one front, they are using their Iraqi Shiite clients as a means of preventing the Shiite community from taking part in U.S.-led plans for a new government.

Together, Iran and Syria control five Iraqi Shiite groups.

On the second front, Syria also controls a number of smaller Iraqi groups, including a breakaway branch of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. The Syrians hope that, if things do not settle in Iraq, they might be able to set up an Iraqi Ba'athist regime in exile and challenge a pro-American government wishing to seek recognition from Arab and Muslim countries.

On a third front, Iran and Syria are actively campaigning to prevent Arab and Muslim countries from recognizing a new pro-American government in Baghdad.

The opening shot in this joint attack on any such government came earlier this month, when a mob murdered Hojat al-Islam Abdel-Majid al-Khoei, a moderate Iraqi Shiite cleric, in Najaf.

Few may have noticed it, but Iraq has already become the latest battleground between the Tehran-Damascus axis and the United States and its allies.
The US must win this war and this leads credence to the idea that the US doesn't care about the Road Map except as a tool to undermine the terrorists in Syria and Iran and the terrorists. Making progress in the territories is the least of their worries.