A word with Mr. Zarif about Syria and Idlib


ByMehdi Nourbakhsh

Mr. Zarif!
These days, the Assad government is preparing to take Idlib militarily. Idlib is awaiting a massive disaster and bloodbath. Idlib has been monitored to know to what extent Assad’s supporters in Syria are ready to perpetrate violence, and how brutal their treatment of innocent Syrians will be, among the blood they spill in the name of fighting terrorists. You know better than I do that Idlib has been the only part in Syria that Assad’s opponents have been able to take shelter in, following indiscriminate Russian bombings in other parts of the country. Putin and the Russians have turned Syria into another Chechnya, and with indiscriminate massacres in this country, they have managed to preserve your dictator, Assad, for Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the Revolutionary Guards. Now Idlib is awaiting a massacre of its people with your support. You are going to prove to the world that the murder of innocent people is not only supported by the violent Revolutionary Guards but that this internationally disgraceful act is also approved by you.
Mr. Zarif! You know better than I do that the Islamic Republic stood by Assad’s dictatorship from the beginning of the Syrian civil war to support him. By justifications like ‘Iran’s anti-Israel strategic depth’, ‘defenders of the shrine’, ‘fighting ISIS’, and ‘if we don’t fight them in Syria, we have to fight them in Tehran’, you hid the truth from your people. You went to Syria to make an anti-Israel base there. All the other justifications or sayings that you gave were to deceive the people. When Iran went to Syria, there was no sign of jihadi groups. Since 2010, Iran entered Syria. The Al Nusra Front, the first Al Qaeda terrorist group, started its activities in Syria a year later. With the invitation of the Al Nusra Front, ISIS entered Syria two years after the beginning of civil war in this country. Nine months after the beginning of the civil war in Syria, your government for the first time proposed to Assad’s opponents that they could participate in the government or oversee it, if they were willing to, while Assad remained in control of all the military forces. Even when you saw that Assad’s government was weak, you weren’t ready to be a fair, ethical mediator. You wanted his opponents to take control of the government so that the military state, when it saw fit, could brutally murder all its opponents.
Your government has claimed that it intervened in Syria to confront Takfiris and jihadi groups, but you know better than most that this is a lie. Iran went to Syria to keep Assad in power and for its own adventurous strategic depth in confronting Israel. Even when Takfiri groups were beheading innocent people in this country, your integrity didn’t allow you to renew your pledge to the people of this country to confront the bloodthirsty terrorists and to encourage Assad’s government to support its people.
Mr. Zarif! In 2015, when the violent Revolutionary Guard’s fighters from Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan couldn’t defeat Assad’s opponents, you invited Russia to Syria. Putin went to Tehran to give a fake gold Quran to Khamenei as a gift, and he called Putin ‘an exceptional leader’. That was because Putin, just like you, saw his own expansionist interests in keeping Assad’s dictatorship in Syria. You took him to Syria because the Revolutionary Guards, after reaching a deadlock in the Syrian civil war, needed a strong air force to kill the citizens of this country indiscriminately to win this battle. But during the Syrian civil war, you committed a bigger sin. With Takfiri groups coming to Syria and developing protective shelter in different parts of the country for the people, you helped these groups in gaining the support of the people and drove the Syrian youth closer to the ideology of these groups. The domestic groups that were opposing Assad – like the Takfiri groups and in some cases with their cooperation – called for foreign help, and all the neighboring countries were determined to somehow increase their influence in Syria. If at the beginning of the civil war, a country like Qatar helped the Syrian groups that were aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood, soon Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the other regional countries, as well as, America all came to Syria to pursue their own interests. They influenced and helped other groups. With the absolute indiscretion of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and the Revolutionary Guards, Syria’s domestic problems became global. Assad’s opponents mostly turned radical in their rivalry with Takfiri groups. With the invasion of Russian and with the support of Iran, the last trench of the opponents in Idlib is expected to collapse. What has remained from Syria is a ruined country with more than 500 thousand human casualties and 12 million displaced persons in and out of the country. Iran could keep Assad’s dictatorship in the ruins of Syria, but could it achieve its other goals?
Mr. Zarif! The ignorant Revolutionary Guards and the unwise Supreme Leader had not learned lessons from the past and from the Iran-Iraq war. They thought that when they entered and intervened in Syria militarily, all the regional countries and foreign powers would just stand by and watch Iran. The immature assumption of Iran’s political leaders was that they would allow Iran to keep Assad for its own political goals without paying any price. Ali Khamenei’s remarks at this year’s Nowruz [beginning of Iranian new year in March] in Mashhad highlighted this lack of wisdom. He said Iran’s interference in Iraq and Syria was nobody’s business. Such remarks aren’t logical and rational when considering international law, but they can be expected from a leader who doesn’t know that the baby diaper shortage in the country is because of US sanctions, a plummeting currency and a decline in purchase power. Iran has spent more than 40 billion dollars and has suffered 3,000 martyrs in Syria, but eventually, this country’s destiny will be determined by the Russians. Russia, with its political allegiance to Israel and Saudi Arabia and in its attempt to improve relations with the United States, is making plans for Iran’s future in Syria, without considering Iran’s interests in this country. With Russia’s green light, Israel has repeatedly bombed Iran’s key positions in Syria and continues to do so. They keep bombing Syrian military positions to make Assad rely on Russia for his own security. In past few days, Israel bombed a Syrian airport and military center in Mezzeh. The Syrian government and its supporters in Iran said that the explosion at this center was by accident. Nevertheless, do you consider Iran’s military intervention in Syria successful?
Mr. Zarif! You know better than anybody that today Iran’s influence in Syria and Iraq is on the decline. Today, Iran’s influence in Syria is completely controlled by Russia. Israel is after driving Iran out of Syria, and with Russia’s plan, they will make it happen at the right time. The Russians will control the reconstruction of Syria, and if Iran stays in Syria and Assad’s destiny isn’t determined, the international community will avoid giving help to reconstruct this country. The lowest estimate for reconstructing Syria has been 400 billion dollars, and the highest one trillion dollars. Neither Iran nor Russia will be able to reconstruct Syria. As for Iraq, the condition of Iran and the extent of its influence is obvious. Different Iraqi groups, with strong popular support, don’t want Iran to have its past influence in their country. The Israelis have threatened that if Iran transfers its missiles to Iraq, they will bomb them. If the Revolutionary Guards enter Iraq for another adventure, they will be defeated just like in Syria. Neither Iraq nor Syria want to become a battlefield for Iran in its conflict with other countries. The implicit support of Al Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, for U.S. sanctions against Iran must be a warning to our country.
Mr. Zarif! Iranian citizens expect you and your government to be the voice of rationality and logic in the foreign policy of the country. Your support for the bloodbath in Idlib will damage the little international credibility that is left for Iran. Even though Takfiri groups have taken shelter in this part of Syria, the innocent people of Syria should not be expected to be destroyed because of the crime and violence by such groups. Now the world is watching Idlib. Instead of encouraging violence, prepare the ground for a peaceful solution to Idlib. In the world, the violence of the Revolutionary Guards has significantly damaged the international credibility of our country. It is also possible that Takfiri groups or Assad’s government will use chemical weapons in Idlib. There is no doubt that Iran’s enemies will use such attacks to discredit Iran.
Mr. Zarif! You most certainly know that the lives of thousands of people will be endangered by attacking Idlib and by Russia’s indiscriminate missile strikes against this region. For the sake of humanity and for the sake of Islamic mercy and human justice, do not become the agent of a violent group [Revolutionary Guards] that brutally killed its own people who were in peaceful protest against rigged elections [in 2009]. Do not think that the history of the revolution and unfair intervention of our political leaders will end here. After signing the nuclear deal, many Iranian people started to love you, but your cooperation and allegiance with these tyrannical people in the country have resulted in you losing popularity. Listen to your own conscience, and not to the power and action of the agents of injustice.

Translated Material: “zeitoons website”

Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Mehdi Nourbakhsh
Mehdi Nourbakhsh
Professor of International Relations at the University of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania