The New York Times has an interesting article reporting on the deepening economic ties between Iran and Syria. Hugh Naylor writes from Damascus:
The Syrian government estimates that Iranian investment in 2006 alone surged to more than $400 million, making Tehran the third-largest foreign investor here, behind Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Though exact figures are unavailable, by some estimates Iran has invested a total of $3 billion in Syria, most of that in the last few years.
In September, officials from both countries announced plans to expand Iranian projects in Syria to $10 billion over the next five years, which would cast Tehran as the economic powerhouse here.
But of course this being the New York Times, the writer can’t stick to the facts—facts that suggest that some of us have reason to be increasingly alarmed about the Tehran-Damascus Axis. He has to throw in a jab at the Bush administration, too. Naylor claims that Iran and Syria are cementing their ties only because neither one can do business with America, since they’re both under American-led sanctions. He cites anonymous “Western diplomats and analysts,” who say “that Washington has effectively pushed Damascus and Tehran into deepening their alliance of nearly three decades.”
This is pretty much the party line at places like the Times whenever other countries align against the United States: It can’t be because they don’t like us, or because our interests are mutually incompatible. It must be because we spurned their generous and deeply felt offers of friendship.
Thus, over the years, we have heard all sorts of elaborate fictions about how everyone from Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro to Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin was really a good guy, a pro-American, if only we had overcome the paranoia of hawks and reached out to him. In each and every instance, historical research has shattered these illusions, showing that these communist dictators were only pretending to be pro-Western at various points in their careers for tactical reasons, while in reality they were committed Marxists all along.
Yet the illusions never die and now adhere to such unlikely candidates as Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. How can anyone plausibly argue that they would love to reach out to America if only we would let them? The reality is that the Clinton administration spent much of the 1990′s trying to reach a rapprochement with both countries and never got anywhere. Today they are farther apart from the U.S. than ever before as they support Islamofascist terrorist groups (Hamas, Hizballah, al Qaeda in Iraq) and connive in the murder of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the strategic alignment between Iran and Syria—symbolized by a defense pact they signed in 2006 that Naylor never mentions—it makes perfect sense that they are also aligning their economic interests. Or, put more crudely, that Iran is using its oil revenues to subsidize the bankrupt Baathist regime in Damascus.
How is this America’s fault?