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Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda would never cooperate. Islamic fundamentalists and secular Ba’athists just don’t get along.

Remember that line of thought, so popular in certain circles during the drawn-out lead-up to the Iraq War? Well, it was wrong then and it’s even more wrong now.


For years, Pakistan’s elected government – something every good Islamist considers a “Western abomination” – played footsie with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then the mostly-secular Pakistani military took power, and cozied up even closer. (Only Colin Powell’s arm-twisting after 9/11 changed things. I’d dearly love to read a transcript of what Powell said to Mussharif that fateful day.) Islamabad and and Kabul had more enemies in common than they had religious differences.

For years, Yasser Arafat’s PLO – a national liberation movement on the old Soviet-sponsored model – worked hand-in-hand in the West Bank with with nutty religious groups like Hizbullah. It seemed that killing Jews was a lot more important than who most closely submitted to the will of Allah.

For years, Syria’s Ba’ath Party and Iran’s mullahs cooperated in Lebanon. Tehran needed a base from which to wage holy war against Israel, and Damascus needed cash and oil. Never seemed to bother either side much that they really ought to have been sworn enemies. Now they’re cooperating even more closely:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran and Syria, who both are facing pressure from the United States, said Wednesday they will form a “united front” to confront possible threats against them, state-run television reported.

“In view of the special conditions faced by Syria, Iran will transfer its experience, especially concerning sanctions, to Syria,” Mohammad Reza Aref, Iran’s first vice president, was quoted as saying after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari.

“At this sensitive point, the two countries require a united front due to numerous challenges.”


So, we have yet another news story which really isn’t news. Rogue groups (or countries) will always find a way to cooperate with each other when the stakes require it. The fact that Damascus and Tehran feel the need to publically announce their longstanding cooperation should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. If they feel threatened enough to restate what’s been obvious for years, it’s not out of love for one another – it’s out of fear of what could happen if they don’t.


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