Iran, Syria Relieved That Democrats Won

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Friday, November 10, 2006

Iran, Syria Relieved That Democrats Won

Jerusalem ( - Iran and Syria say that a Democrat-controlled Congress and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could relieve the pressure on them, officials from those countries said.

Both Iran and Syria have been under pressure from the U.S. -- Iran, for its refusal to abandon its nuclear program; and Syria for its alleged involvement in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The U.S. also has criticized Damascus for hosting the headquarters of Palestinian terrorist organizations and for supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

Washington has accused both countries, which back the Hizballah terrorist organization in Lebanon, of trying to topple the government in Beirut.

Syrian officials said the U.S. midterm elections mark a "significant change," and they view it as an American vote "against the neo-conservative mentality of the current administration."

"The outcome of the theses elections [is] a genuine punishment from the American people to [President Bush's] administration that staged a war on Iraq because of incorrect and inaccurate stimulations," Syrian Information Minister Dr Mohsen Bilal said in an interview with al-Jazeera, according to the official Syrian news agency SANA.

"Therefore the U.S. and British forces are in a mess there now," Bilal was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Bilal noted that incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes the war in Iraq. "This lady has made the word of the American people audible," he said. "And this is very comfortable."

Iranian analysts were quoted as saying that the Democrats will try to resolve the standoff with Iran through negotiations. They also welcomed the resignation of Rumsfeld.

Iranian state-run radio called Rumsfeld a "symbol of stupidity and unilateralism" and said his resignation represented "America's defeat in Iraq, the end of the era of neo-conservatives and the failure of America's war policy -- of which Rumsfeld was the architect."

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani also expressed optimism that the defeat of the Republicans "might soften the U.S. war-mongering policy in the region."

Larijani, who is close to Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said "It is possible that the United States will behave in a wiser manner and will not pit itself against Iran."

In Israel, experts have said the only way to avoid a military confrontation with Iran is for the U.S. and its allies to be willing to use force -- and to make that clear to Tehran.

Israel's newly appointed Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that Israel must prevent Tehran from succeeding in its nuclear pursuits "at all costs."

Sneh said he was not advocating "Israeli preemptive military action," which he considers a "last resort."

"But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort," Sneh told the Jerusalem Post in comments published on Friday.

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