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Iran backs plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control


Iran backs plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control


Iran says it’s behind Russia’s offer to work with Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman believes Moscow’s offer could be decisive.

Tehran is one of Syria’s staunchest allies and has blamed rebels for launching last month’s deadly chemical attack in which the United States claims more than 14-hundred people were killed.

Reza Marashi is Research Director at the National Iranian American Council. This is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organisation. It presents itself as working to advance the interests of the Iranian American community. Our US correspondent Stefan Grobe interviewed Marashi for his insight into Tehran’s policy on the crisis in Syria.

Reza Marashi: “I think that for at least the past year if not longer, decision makers in Iran, not all of them, but many of them, have been willing to cut off the head of the snake in Syria, meaning Assad, in an effort to keep the body, you know, key deep state institutions from the Baa’th Party, while also going to the negotiating table to try to find a political solution. The Iranians have been one of the first together with UN and a handful of others that have said that there is no military solution to this problem, there is only a political solution. But the Iranians’ participation in potentially finding a political solution that can stop the killing is not going to come for free. There will be a price attached to Iranian willingness to bargain. Thus far, the United States and to a lesser extent the European Union have been unwilling to bring Iran into the negotiating process.”

Changes on the ground transform international roles and motivation… Marashi here highlights reaction differences between those at the top in Iran and ordinary people.

Marashi: “The use of chemical weapons of the Assad government was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for many decision-makers in Iran. But I would go a step further and argue that the indiscriminate killing of innocent Syrians on behalf of the Assad government, by the Assad government was a straw that broke the camel’s back for many Iranians long ago.”

Iranians have chafed for quite some time under international sanctions imposed on Tehran over policy differences; Syria, Marashi suggests, has also been hard for them to digest.

Marashi: “There has been a long-standing debate in Iran about how the unequivocal backing of the Assad government has systematically sapped Iranian soft power throughout the Middle East. It has been weighing down the country of Iran, many have argued inside Iran. And as a result of that, I think that there are key decision-makers in Iran that will be more than willing to hand this problem off to the United States, should the United States choose to intervene militarily.”

Diplomacy often seems to operate as if in a hall of mirrors, with its practitioners well aware that looks can be misleading. Part of their job is never to forget: don’t break the glass.

Marashi: “I think there is a risk involved when you make the case for war in Syria by saying that it will send the Iranian government a message, that the United States means what it says when it comes to red lines. The risk involved, I would argue is two-fold. One, whether or not you support military strikes in Syria, I think it is fair to say at this point we don’t have a clearly articulated strategy, nor do we have a clearly articulated strategy for the day after. The second risk involved is, because of communication between Iran and the Unites States is so minimal that if it’s not increased and if we don’t give Iran incentives in some way, shape or form to participate in a process that weakens Assad and brings about some kind of political solution, then extremist elements in Iran will see an incentive to, in fact, work against the United States and American efforts and EU efforts, if in fact the European Union goes along with our military efforts in Syria. That can cause regional chaos that already exists at very high levels to reach unprecedented levels, and that is dangerous for everyone.”

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