by Alex Traiman
AP Photo: Syrian and Iranian Presidents, Bashar Assad, right, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad held a joint press conference in Damascus Thursday confirming the formation of a new regional military alliance.
“The enemies of this region should drop their plans to strike the interests of this region, for these enemies will burn by the fire of the people,” Ahmadinejad stated. “Both countries are united in a frontier facing common enemies to the region.”
Ahmadinejad warned the unnamed enemies to abandon their “hostile plans,” stating, “Syria and Iran are aspiring for this summer to be hot by virtue of the victories that will be attained by the peoples of the region… and the enemies of the peoples of the region are on their way to perdition and defeat.”
As part of the new military alliance, the London-based Arabic paper A-Sharq al-Aussat states, Iran will fund over $1 billion in new defense equipment for Syria including: 400 Russian tanks, 8 Mikoyan helicopters, 8 Sukhoi fighter jets, 18 MiG-31s, Iranian armoured vehicles and tanks, and Chinese C-801/802 missiles.
Israel is reportedly “skeptical” about the deal, though sources say the very meeting itself is of great concern and shows that Assad is not interested in peace.
Ahmadinejad reportedly also pledged to help Syria overthrow Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and to aid in the restoration of pro-Syrian influence within the Lebanese parliament. In addition, Iran will fund Syrian research towards the respective establishment and improvement of nuclear and biological weapons programs.
In return, Syria has reportedly pledged not to enter into any diplomatic negotiations with Israel. Tehran will also be permitted to keep Iranian warplanes stationed in Syria.
While in Damascus, the two heads of state also reportedly met with Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
Ahmadinejad & Nasrallah
History Repeats Itself
Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said the military alliance forged between Iran and Syria is “reminiscent of the pacts that were signed on the eve of the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars”.
“The Iranian decision will lead to the launching of an attack on Israel from Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Iran,” Eldad stated.
“For some reason, the government of Israel chooses to ignore not only intelligence information, but even information that is published for all to see,” he added.
Olmert Still Prepared to Negotiate
In an interview with Channel 10 Saturday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Kadima) said that Israel was still prepared to negotiate with Syria and abandon the Golan Heights. “I don’t know what will be at the end of negotiations with Syria. Of course we will have to make concessions, but can I make commitments even before the beginning of negotiations and promise that I will withdraw from the entire Golan Heights?”
Previously, Syria demanded that Israel commit to a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a precondition to opening talks with Jerusalem.
In a separate interview Thursday, when asked how Nasrallah was able to sneak into a meeting between Ahmadinejad and Assad, Olmert responded, “No reply I could give would sound the way I’d want it to.”
Strategic Alliance Minister: Form Unity Government
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) called for Olmert and Opposition Leader Benyamin Netanyahu (Likud) to form a unity government to deal with the growing Iranian-Syrian threat.
“The strengthening of the relationship between Assad and Ahmadinejad demands that Israel reorganize its political and military preparations,” said Lieberman. “The Iranian threat remains outside of politics, and therefore I call on the Prime Minister and the head of the opposition to reconsider forming a national emergency government.”