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02/17/2005 Archived Entry: "Iran-Syria pact"

I was intrigued by the Iran-Syria mutual defense pact that was announced on CNN this morning, especially since I couldn't discern any of the terms of the pact from the shoddy reporting. (The US has demanded that Syria withdraw troops from Lebanon and has accused Iran of running a covert nuclear weapons program.) Is this a paper tiger alliance? I began to research and here's the scant information I've uncovered so far on the pact and surrounding matters...

From the Guardian, "Yesterday's announcement came as the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, predicted that Tehran would have the knowledge to produce a nuclear weapon within six months. Speaking in London, he accused Iran of preparing nuclear weapons that would be able to target "London, Paris and Madrid" by the end of the decade."

From the Scotsman, "Iran urged regional countries to create a powerful alliance today and remain vigilant in the face of 'US and Israeli plots.'"

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Israel has warned that it may consider a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear installations. Earlier yesterday, Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi publicly confirmed for the first time that the United States has been flying surveillance drones over Iran's airspace to spy on its nuclear and military facilities." The Post-Intelligencer quotes Condi Rice accusing Iran and Syria of backing anti-American insurgents in Iraq, then offers the following analysis, "Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was unlikely that either of the two countries would prop up the anti-American insurgency in Iraq. Alterman said, 'neither country has an interest in seeing Iraq slide into complete chaos,' especially Iran, which saw fellow Shiites register big wins in Iraqi elections last month. 'Their boys just won an election,' Alterman said. 'Are they really going to be going in there supporting an insurgency?'"

From the New Nation (Bangladesh): " An unknown aircraft fired a missile on Wednesday in a deserted area near the southern city of Dailam in the province of Bushehr where Iran has a nuclear power plant, Iranian state television said....Meanwhile, Russia said yesterday [02/15] it wanted to supply Syria with advanced missile systems, a move certain to anger the United States, which accuses Syria of having links to terrorism....The attack on Iran and the subsequent developments in the Middle East put the region on the verge of another war, agencies and TV channels commented. Agency reports said Iran's Russian-built 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor, its only nuclear power plant, is due to start operating in Bushehr province in late 2005. Dailam is about 100 miles from the nuclear power plant. U.S. stock features fell sharply following the news. 'This explosion basically sent chills down the spines of futures traders,' said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Alaron Trading Corp in Chicago. Crude oil prices also jumped on the Iran television report."

From Maisonneuve, "The [National] Post carries a Reuters report (unavailable online) that Israel intends to buy five hundred 'bunker buster' bombs from the US. As the story points out, these bombs would be ideal in attacks on underground Iranian nuclear facilities. Meanwhile, the Globe (unavailable online) notes that Tehran has given conflicting explanations about an explosion yesterday near one of its alleged nuclear facilities."

From the New York Post: "In a reversal of its policy not to enter into military alliance with any foreign power, the Islamic Republic of Iran has just concluded a defense pact with Syria. Signed in Damascus yesterday, the pact commits Iran to Syria's defense against 'the Zionist entity,' which in the Iranian lexicon means Israel. The idea of a pact was first raised by Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the immediate aftermath of the liberation of Iraq last April. The Syrian leader paid three visits to Tehran, pressing the Iranian leadership to come to the help of his beleaguered regime. Sources in Tehran say the Iranians were at first reluctant to commit to a course that could make war with Israel almost inevitable."

Meanwhile the Jerusalem Post reports that Bush reasserted his "unwillingness" to have Iran develop nuclear weapons and declared Israel "is our ally and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened."

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