Sunday, May 25, 2008

Iran Miffed at Syria Over Talks with Israel

Hillel Fendel

Iranian President Ahmedinajad is reportedly fuming at Syria over its willingness to cooperate with the enemy. Sources quoted in the London-based Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper said Ahmedinajad feels Syria's contacts with Israel are a violation of Syria's commitments to Iran. Israel and Syria announced simultaneously last week that they have begun unofficial peace talks. Syrian spokesman say this means Israel has agreed to give up the Golan Heights, while Israeli officials say Syria is to abandon its ties with Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah.

In addition to Ahmedinajad's reported anger, Iran's response has come in two other ways. Iran's Foreign Minister Manushar Mutaki attacked Israel, saying, "The Golan Heights belong to Syria, and Israel has no right to set conditions for its return to its rightful owners."

On the diplomatic front, Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkemani and a Syrian army delegation arrived in Iran for an official visit over the weekend. Turkemani and his Iranian counterpart Mustafa Najar discussed the ties between the two countries, as well as "recent regional developments," the Iranian news agency reported. The Shab'a Farms border dispute between Lebanon and Syria was also to be on the table. The area, known as Har Dov, is part of the Golan and is currently under Israeli control.

The Iranian Defense Minister also expressed confidence Sunday that there would be no change in Syria's relationship with Iran.

Hamas: Syria Won't Abandon Us
Hamas, for its part, must step lightly in its criticism of Syria, as Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal lives in Damascus. Mashal said only, "We trust in Syria and its leadership, and it will not harm Palestinian rights." He added that he doubts that Israel is willing to cede the Golan, or that the Olmert government is strong enough to do it.

Israeli-Arab Minister: Syria Will Quit the Axis of Evil
Minister of Science and Culture Raleb Mejadle, who was appointed as Israel's first Arab government minister nearly a year and a half ago, said that the talks with Syria "are in the best interests of both Israel and Syria. Why should anyone say they are just a 'spin' designed to get the Prime Minister out of his criminal investigations? There is a great danger when Syria is linked with Iran along the axis of evil, and these contacts can take Syria away from that."

In addition to deep military and cultural ties, Syria is also heavily bound up with Iran financially. Iran is invested in Syrian car-manufacturing plants, a cement making facility, multi-million dollar wheat silos, fleets of buses and more.

Iranian-Israeli Arrested for Spying for Iran
It was announced Sunday morning that Israel had arrested an Iranian-born Israeli citizen who had admitted passing classified information to Iran.

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