Iran and Iraq
Syrian support of Iran in the Iran-Iraq War and its enmity toward Iraq was modified in 1986. The Syrian-Iranian alliance had been cemented with a March 1982 economic accord that provided for shipments of subsidized Iranian oil to Syria, at which time Syria closed Iraq's oil pipeline through Syrian territory. Syria's support for Iran was not a reflection of any ideological affinity between Assad's regime and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalism but rather an instance of pragmatic politics. It seemed to illustrate the Arab saying that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Syria supported Iran because Iraq had been Syria's implacable foe for decades. Moreover, Syria's alliance with Iran allowed it to exert control over pro-Iranian Shia forces in Lebanon and use them as a proxy force to impose Syrian designs there. In supporting Iran, Syria broke ranks once again with a nearly unanimous Arab opinion favoring Iraq.
However, although Syria wanted Iraq weakened and neutralized, it did not envision the installation in Baghdad of a pro-Iranian fundamentalist Shia regime. As the beleaguered Iraqi regime lost ground to advancing Iranian forces, Assad stated in October 1986 that Syria could not accept the occupation of Iraqi land by anyone. Subsequently, Syrian and Iraqi officials met to explore the possibility of restoring relations. Assad's statement may have prompted the temporary kidnapping, the following day, of the Syrian chargé d'affaires in Tehran. Later in October, Assad met in Damascus with Iranian minister of the Revolutionary Guards Muhsin Rafiq-Dost to repair Syrian-Iranian relations. Rafiq-Dost stated that the Syrians had announced their resolute support of Iran until the downfall of the Iraqi regime and the "liberation of Iraq." However, Syria did not affirm the Iranian statement, and in early 1987, Syrian support for Iran appeared to be qualified.
|Country Studies main page | Syria Country Studies main page|