Against the backdrop of President Bush's Middle East visit and of the recent visit to Syria by 'Ali Larijani, representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran's Supreme National Security Council, high-ranking Syrian government officials called on Arab countries to deepen relations and cooperation with Iran. Such calls have been voiced by Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal and Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Al-Miqdad. In addition, a column published in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra advised Arab states that Iran's becoming a regional power was in their interests.
The following are excerpts from the statements by senior officials and from the Al-Thawra column:
Senior Syrian Officials: Arab Countries Must Deepen Relations with Iran
In a press conference convened in Damascus by Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal on January 9, 2008, Bilal said: "The attempts by U.S. President George Bush to present Iran as the enemy of the Arabs, with the aim of substituting the genuine and tangible danger that Israel poses to Arab interests and security with an imaginary and artificial Iranian danger, is doomed to failure." He continued: "Syria is pleased with the positive developments that are evidenced by the bilateral relations between Iran and more than one Arab country," and added: "Syria has always stressed to its Arab brothers that its excellent relations with Iran are a credit to be used [not only for Syria's own benefit] but also for other Arab causes." He suggested that Arab countries share Syria's view regarding the relationship with Iran.
In a January 7, 2008 interview, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad told the Lebanese Hizbullah television channel Al-Manar that there was "a need to deepen friendly relations and cooperation between Iran and all the Arab countries, in a way that will serve the interest of the Arab and Islamic peoples."
Syrian Columnist: The Arabs Have an Interest in Iran's Becoming a Regional Power
In his column in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra, Salim 'Abboud expressed hope that Syria-Iran relations would be the seed from which overall Iranian-Arab relations would grow, and suggested that these relations were based on the willingness of both Iran and the Arab countries to face the Israeli-U.S. danger in the region. He wrote:
"The discussion on relations between Iran and the Arab countries is today preoccupying many [political circles]. Some are expressing a desire to maintain close relations between Iran and the Arab countries, due to the positive impact [of such relations] on the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict and on the general situation in the region, in light of the U.S. conspiracies that target the entire region without exception. [In contrast,] others are trying to sow doubt about the future of these relations, and to thwart them, using lies and false claims such as [calling them] an attempt by Iran to establish a 'crescent of Persian influence' from Tehran to Palestine, via Baghdad, Damascus, and Lebanon.
"Unfortunately, the impact of these false claims – which are exploited by political and religious elements and by Arabic-speaking media that are funded by the U.S. and the imperialist West, as well as by bodies connected with the Zionist propaganda and the Zionist lobby – have begun to infiltrate our Arab and Islamic world. It is also saddening that some of those who participate in workshops [organized by these elements] are politicians, cultural figures, thinkers, and clerics. These people are immersed in a game, in return for which they receive dollars, Euros, and [even Israeli] shekels while insulting the intelligence of the Arabs and the Muslims.
"[We] should not be surprised that they act this way, because treachery has already entered their blood... [Those] who bark [like dogs] on the dollar-[funded] satellite TV channels are advancing a U.S.-Zionist conspiracy and spreading fear of an Iranian invasion of the Arab world – while deep in their hearts they know that even if Iran tried for a millennium it would never succeed in distancing anyone from his ethnic affiliation. If this were not the case, [both] the Arab Maghreb countries and Lebanon would have [long since] become Christian, by force of the missionary elements and the Western military presence [in them].
"These false allegations are lies aimed at diverting [Arab] attention from the Zionist peril... to the so-called 'Shi'ite/Persian peril.' Websites containing many [of these] false allegations are run by officials whose job it is to spark ethnic extremism and to turn the Arab-Israeli conflict into a conflict within Islam. It is in the interest of the Muslims and the Arabs that Iran become a regional power, with the aim of creating a balance against Israel.
"The creation of a Sunni-Shi'ite conflict to replace the Arab-Israeli conflict is aimed to cause the oil[-producing] countries to acquire weapons, at a cost of billions of dollars, on the pretext of confronting the Iranian peril and Iranian nuclear technology – which is being used solely for peaceful purposes. [And] all of this while turning a blind eye to the Israeli nuclear danger, and to Israel's hundreds of nuclear warheads aimed at every Arab city, from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf..."
Syria-Iran Relations Must Be "The Seed of Arab-Iran Relations"
'Aboud continued: "Syrian-Iranian relations, which must be the seed of [overall] Iranian-Arab relations, are based on the honest aspiration of the two countries to confront the Israel-U.S. danger. Whether the patience of President Bush and of [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy towards Syria and Iran has run out or not, Syria will not submit to threats and enticements. [Likewise,] whether the doors of the world's countries open to Syria or not, there will be no negotiating over Syria's principles, which knows and hopes that the Arabs will not repeat the mistake of [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] in launching a war against Iran – a war that the West stood behind and nourished.
"Israel and the U.S. aspire to invade the Arab nation, on its cultural, political, economic, and geographic levels, and also to invade [its] holy sites. If there is a meeting [of the interests] of Iran and Syria, it is based on both countries' belief in confronting the danger threatening the region. They know that [the danger] of Shi'ization is not the issue, and that this is not an Arab-Shi'ite conflict. Everything that is going on is based on the existence of two [political] lines in the region – one that submits, and one that [believes in] resistance.
"If Syria, Iran, and the Arab resistance forces take the line of resisting the U.S.-Israeli influence, then where do those who are beating the drums [of war against Iran] stand, and in whose service are they acting?" 
 Al-Thawra (Syria), January 10, 2008.