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Iranian officials praise Assad speech panned in West

January 08, 2013|By Ramin Mostaghim and Emily Alpert
  • President Bashar Assad delivers a speech outlining his plan to end the conflict in Syria in Damascus on Sunday.
President Bashar Assad delivers a speech outlining his plan to end the conflict… (European Pressphoto Agency…)

TEHRAN — Iranian officials again threw their support to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday, backing the peace plans the embattled Assad laid out in a rare televised speech.

While European leaders dismissed the speech as nothing new and the U.S. State Department panned the Sunday address as “detached from reality," Iranian officials and some pundits said just the opposite.

The ideas raised by Assad are “based on the realities in the Arab state,” Hossein Naqavi-Hosseini, spokesman for an Iranian parliamentary committee on foreign policy, was quoted as telling the official Islamic Republic News Agency on Tuesday. 

Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi also praised the plan laid out by Assad to end Syria's 21-month-old civil war, saying it “rejects violence and terrorism and any foreign interference in the country and outlines a future for the country ... through a comprehensive political process," state media reported Monday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast repeated the endorsement Tuesday in his weekly press briefing, calling the Assad plan a “democratic method” to quell the crisis.

“Those who advocate the rights of Syrian people ... it is advisable for them to know that the best way to realize the demands of people is to address their demands in a peaceful, quiet and stable atmosphere,” Mehmanparast said, according to the IRNA.

The Sunday speech made clear that Assad has no plans to step down. The Syrian leader said he would halt military operations only after fighting and foreign aid to the rebels stopped.

That would lead to a dialogue with the opposition leading to a new national charter, approved by a referendum. An expanded government, including those in the talks, would oversee the drafting of a constitution. National elections would also be held. Assad, however, questioned the notion there was any opposition with which he could have dialogue. 

Iran remains the closest ally of Syria. Yet even in Tehran, senior officials and clerics appear to have fractured over how to respond to the intractable conflict, as some Iranian analysts become convinced that Assad will fall. Iranian media have begun to talk openly about a future Syria without Assad.

In the aftermath of the speech, some Iranian commentators echoed the official stance among Iranian officials: that Assad remains in firm control.

Assad “wanted to show that Western countries, by supporting the opposition militarily and financially, are miscalculating the events in Syria,” Hamid Reza Taraghi, international affairs head for the Islamic Coalition Party, told the Los Angeles Times. “The Western countries are wrong. There is no solution but reconciliation with the Syrian government.”

Yet other Iranian thinkers were unimpressed. Political scientist Sadegh ZibaKalam lamented the “stubborn stance” shown by Assad and predicted his downfall. “If he had compromised two years ago, there would have been no room for Salafi groups and Al Qaeda to get involved.”

“Bashar Assad is responsible for the scorched land of Syria. Regrettably, once Bashar is toppled, Syria will face a huge legacy of ruins of its civilization and have to deal with its traumatized people,” he said.

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