NIGHTWATCH: Syria Update

05 Iran, 08 Wild Cards

Syria-Saudi Arabia: During Friday’s meeting in Tunisia, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said he supported giving weapons and ammunition to groups fighting the Syrian regime. “I think it’s an excellent idea,” Prince Saud told reporters in Tunisia. Asked why, he replied: “Because they have to defend themselves.”

Comment: Prince Saud’s remarks make clear that Saudi Arabia has decided to roll back the Shiite heresy in Syria and block Iranian influence in Arab lands.

Syria-Hamas: On Friday, Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniya, publicly turned against the al-Asad regime in Syria by announcing their support for the opposition. During Friday prayers at Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, Haniya said, “I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.” The crowd answered with calls of “No Hezbollah and no Iran” and “the Syrian revolution is an Arab revolution.”

The policy change also was announced at a rally in the Gaza strip. Hamas’ leadership also confirmed longstanding reports that they have vacated offices in Damascus and moved to Lebanon.

Comment: The Hamas statements, if backed by action, represent a strategic setback for Iran and seem to signify that Hamas has reconciled with Arab leaders, such as the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood. This does not signify a reduction in hostility toward Israel, but the Palestinian cause appears to be an Arab cause once again.

Last year the Saudis warned the Iranians on several occasions to cease meddling in Arab affairs. A Saudi role in Hamas’ change of policy has not been reported, but its congruence with Saudi desires and interests to contain Iran strongly suggests significant Saudi involvement.

While Iran is maintaining its defiance over nuclear issues, it is proving unable to preserve its strategic position west of Baghdad. It is being contained on multiple fronts.

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