Assad Meets Lebanese Defense Minister amid Regional Turbulence

Jerusalem, Sept. 13 - Lebanon’s Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Monday (Sept. 12) to discuss cooperation and coordination between the countries’ armies,SANA, Syria’s official news agency, reported. The Syrian Defense Minister Dawood Rajiha also attended the meeting, during which the “brotherly armies” discussed cooperative relations and “means of enhancing them,” SANA stated.

Syria, Iran and Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror organization represent an anti-Israel triumvirate in the region. Syria often acts as a conduit between Iran and Hezbollah, enabling the transfer of funds and arms from Iran to the organization. Lebanon and Syria also receive arms and funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Damascus, Syria’s capital, is home to Hamas’ political leadership.

The meeting comes after nearly six months of ongoing social demonstrations in Syria—during which some 2,600 Syrians have died and thousands more have been jailed by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Hezbollah, which dominates the Lebanese government, has reportedly helped Assad try to quell the ongoing domestic upheaval.

While EU and U.S. leaders have called for Assad to step down and stop the slaughter of civilians, Russia has rejected calls for wider sanctions against Damascus. The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page called on Russia to not support the regime and its “killers.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran – who usually fall on opposite sides on regional issues - have both called for Syria to stop the use of excessive violence. Saudi Arabia pulled its ambassador from Damascus, calling the situation “unacceptable.” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fell short of calling for Assad’s departure but did say that the resolution of problems should come through dialogue rather than violence, the Tehran Timesreported.

In what may be another sign of political floundering, Syria is reportedly ready to cooperate with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigators regarding the alleged nuclear site, Dair Alzour. Despite Syria’s assertions that the site is not a military facility the IAEA contends it was “very likely” to have housed a nuclear reactor before it was bombed in 2007. Reports suggest that Israel carried out the bombing although it has not been corroborated by Israel.

Russia and China have opposed Syria’s cooperation with the IAEA, reported Reuters.

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