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In Focus | Syria and Iran

18 Nov 2011 18:11Comments

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Latest Developments | The Tide Turns against Bashar Assad

Even as Mr Assad struggles to contain the waves of protest, the diplomatic tide is running sharply against him. On November 2nd he accepted a set of proposals laid out by the 22-country Arab League, including a promise to withdraw his security forces from the cities, to release political prisoners (said to number between 10,000 and 20,000), to let in some 500 diplomatic monitors along with the foreign media that had hitherto been barred, and to engage the opposition in talks that would lead eventually to multiparty elections. Mr Assad freed several hundred prisoners but entirely flouted the rest of the deal, thereby prompting the league, on November 12th, to suspend Syria from membership. Four days later, in Morocco, the league said it would impose sanctions if Mr Assad did not relent within three days.

Worldview | How the World Stacks Up on Syria

As the international community mulls how to respond to the crisis in Syria, it faces a complex and changing web of geopolitical alliances, heated rivalries and strategic interests. Here's a closer look at the key international players.

Iran and Syria

Primer | Iran and Syria

The Iran-Syria alliance grew out of common cause -- and common enemies. Since Iran's 1979 Revolution, the two regional powerhouses have pooled political leverage and military resources to enhance their position, build a network of surrogate militias and frustrate the plans of opponents. Together they ensured Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which bordered both countries, would not become the predominant regional power. They forced U.S. peacekeepers out of Lebanon in 1984, and thwarted Israel's effort to bring Lebanon into its orbit during an 18-year occupation that finally ended in Israel's unilateral withdrawal in 2000. The odd bedfellows together sired or supported Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and an array of radical Palestinian groups. All reject peace. And together they have inflicted repeated setbacks on six American presidents.

Analysis | Iran's Nightmare: Losing Syria

Syria has been Iran's main platform from which it has built formidable influence over the Arab-Israeli conflict, setting up Hezbollah in Lebanon and supporting Palestinian groups, mainly Hamas in Gaza. Tehran officials are beginning to wonder what their alternatives are in ensuring the maintenance of the status quo with Israel.

Q&A | The Impact of Syria's Unrest on Iran

In April, the United State claimed that Tehran has been helping Damascus put down the Syrian uprising. Two rounds of U.S. sanctions on Syria for human rights abuses have since named Iran's Revolutionary Guards for a role in the bloody crackdown. The sanctions specifically targeted Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC Quds Force, and Mohsen Shirazi, head of Quds Force operations. The Quds Force is the elite IRGC wing that liaises with foreign governments and militias. Accounts of Iran's role vary significantly. But other reports have suggested that Iran's security apparatus, including police and intelligence, have also provided support to the Assad regime.

Q&A | Iraq Adopts Iran's Backing of Assad

Film | Syria Undercover and The Regime

Watch Syria Undercover on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Watch The Regime on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Audio | The Lion's Den

Copyright © 2011

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