CAIRO, Aug. 31 -- As the United States and its allies ramp up their rhetoric backing a military strike on Syria, the drum beat of war has drawn mixed reactions from Mideast regional powers, ranging from deep concern over sectarian strife or terrorist attacks to preparing for involvement in the conflict.
IRAN MAY DIRECTLY INVOLVE IN CONFLICT
As Syria's main ally in the region, Iran cannot stay aloof from the U.S. attack as a disinterested spectator, according to Iranian officials and analysts. < Iran's close relations with Syria date back to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 and have been steady since then. During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), Syria was the only Arab state that provided Iran with political, moral and military support.
Other than historical ties, Iran also relies heavily on Syria to carry out its strategies in the region.
In his latest comment on Syria, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of "disastrous" consequences of a possible U.S. attack on Syria, saying military intervention will be a "catastrophe" for the region.
The Middle East is like a "powder keg" and its future will be unpredictable if something happens, he said. Iran will become involved directly in Syria when it finds that world and regional powers like the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are already there attacking Bashar al-Assad.
"In such a scenario, Iran will do whatever it takes to keep Assad in power," Sadeq Zibakalam, a professor on politics from Tehran University, told Xinhua on Thursday.
Iran will consider "U.S. military bases wherever in the region as a legitimate target," he said.
In addition to offering support as it has done in the past, Iran may have to confront the West in the battlefield as well, he said.
Syria is a key logistic route bridging Iran's support with anti- American and anti-Western forces in the region, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and other Palestinian groups, Zibakalam said.
"If the Syrian regime is no longer there, it would be tantamount to the collapse of Iranian strategic policies in the Middle East."