The Jerusalem Post (Link) - Brenda Gazzar (January 7, 2009)
Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani visited Damascus on Wednesday to discuss ways to stop the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, according to Middle Eastern media reports. Larijani met Syrian President Bashar Assad and Syrian Parliament Speaker Mahmoud Abrash on "ways to stop the military operation in the Gaza Strip" according to the Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal.
The newspaper also reported that Larijani visited Khaled Mashaal to discuss ways to "offer humanitarian and moral assistance to the Gaza Strip." Larijani said Sunday that Gaza would become a "graveyard for Zionists" after Israel launched its ground operation.
Larijani's visit comes days after a top Iranian security official, Saeed Jalili, met with leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah in Damascus and Beirut. These trips further demonstrate how important the Gaza conflict is to Iran, which supports Hamas with both money and military training, and considers the movement and other radical Palestinian factions a main weapon against its arch-enemy Israel.
Larijani, the Secretary of the Security Council of Iran, visited Syria and Lebanon in part to assess whether the Islamic Republic could open a new front against Israel to relieve pressure on Hamas in Gaza, either via Hizbullah or via the government of Syria, said Menashe Amir, an Israeli expert on Iran. "I think that they came to the conclusion that it's not possible," he said, noting that Hizbullah was in the midst of an election campaign and did not want to damage its political profile, while Syria is likely not interested in escalating conflict with Israel either.
Now, Iran is focusing its efforts on bringing about an immediate cease-fire to prevent Hamas and Islamic Jihad from being toppled or collapsing. Iran knows that if the Israeli operation continues and is able to suppress Hamas in Gaza, then Iran loses its capability to deter Israel from launching an attack on its nuclear installations, he said. Iran has threatened that if Israel were to attack their installations, that they would order Hamas and Hizbullah to punish Israel by firing a large number of rockets against the Jewish state, he said.
Meanwhile, Jalili met on Wednesday with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been increasingly critical of Israel over its Gaza ground offensive against Hamas.