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Terrorism & Security

Iran convenes conference on Syria, vowing to preserve the 'axis of resistance'

Iran, largely isolated from the West and a steadfast ally of Syria's President Assad, has a lot to lose if the regime in Damascus falls. 

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Although Western powers, including the US, and a handful of Arab states are sympathetic to Syria’s rebels, they have not intervened militarily. President Barack Obama reportedly signed a covert directive last week, allowing the CIA and other agencies to offer support for rebel forces, and Obama’s counterterrorism adviser said today that the implementation of a no-fly zone over Syria was not "off the table," reports CNN.

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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A Western diplomat in Iran said today’s conference illustrated it was “running out of ideas,” Reuters reports. But the International Herald Tribune’s Harvey Morris notes it’s important to look at Syria from Iran’s perspective. In the more than three-decade history of Iran’s Islamic Republic, “Syria is the only state to have consistently stood by it while hostile neighbors and outside powers conspired to bring about its downfall.”

But that doesn’t mean Iran is ready to sacrifice its countrymen for the cause and “fight for Mr. Assad down to the last Iranian," he writes:

To understand the roots of Iranian paranoia, just look at the map. Iran has been steadily encircled by a network of US military bases in the decades since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

 …

The impact of regime change in the Arab World has in fact been largely negative from Tehran’s perspective. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt is closer to Saudi Arabia than it is to Iran. If the Alawite-dominated regime in Damascus were to fall, it would mean the loss of a non-Sunni ally.

So, how far will Iran go towards protecting its long-term partner? It will not be happy if Mr. Assad goes. But beyond cash and supplies and the loan of military advisers, there is not much Tehran can do to determine the outcome.

Its best hope might be the emergence of a post-Assad regime that is not openly hostile to its interests, reserving the option of trying to destabilize a successor regime that was.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reports that Hussein Amir Abdollahian, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, said today’s conference would be attended by representatives of “a remarkable number of interested and influential regional and world states,” according to The New York Times.

That reportedly included China, Algeria, Russia, Tajikistan, Venezuela, Pakistan, India, and six members of the Arab League, although Reuters reports Russia was the only country to confirm its attendance. Just hours before the conference was set to commence, Iran had not disclosed which countries were actually present, reports the New York Times.

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria

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