Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syrian opposition tells Tehran to back off | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt that the Syrian opposition has opened a line of communication with Iranian diplomats in an attempt to calm Tehran’s fears regarding a post-Assad Syria, urging Iran to withdraw its support from the flagging al-Assad regime that has failed to put an end to a popular uprising that began almost 6 months ago.

Sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that a meeting brought together representatives of the Syrian opposition at home and Iranian diplomats, during which the Syrian opposition urged Tehran to withdraw its support from the al-Assad regime. The source also revealed that this meeting took place just a few days ago at the request of the Syrian opposition.

Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March; the US and Europe – as well as the Syrian opposition – has accused Iran of providing the al-Assad regime with sophisticated arms and equipment to suppress the unarmed Syrian protesters, including electroshock weaponry, as well as heavy weaponry and ammunition. Observers believe that the support that Tehran is granting the al-Assad regime – particularly on an economic level – has hindered international efforts to isolate the Syrian regime, which most recently includes sanctions being imposed on Syria’s oil industry.

Bahiya Mardini, chairwoman of the Arab Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Opinion and Expression, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that representatives of the Syrian opposition at home met with Iranian diplomats in Paris. She revealed that the Syrian side attempted to win over the Iranians, sending a message to Tehran from the Syrian people, to the effect that “Tehran is gambling with its relationship with the Syrian people.”

Mardini said that the Syrian opposition attempted to reassure the Iranian diplomats about the future of the Shiite community and Iranian national interests in a post-Assad Syria. She also said that she believes that this meeting took place against the backdrop of the al-Assad regime’s failure to put an end to the Syrian protests which have been on-going for almost the past 6 months, stressing that this is why the Iranian regime was open to communicating with the different parties involved in the crisis that the Damascus regime has been facing since March.

For his part, the head of the Syrian opposition National Resistance of Al Ahwaz movement’s media department, Nasser Jaber, confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran is providing Syria with aid to suppress the protests. He revealed that “the al-Assad regime is receiving aid across its borders from its neighbours who owe allegiance to the Tehran regime.”

Indeed many Syrian opposition figures have claimed that the Iranian regime is trying with all of its strength to prevent the collapse of its regional network of interests by ensuring the survival of the al-Assad regime.

Jaber stressed that “the al-Assad regime is receiving Iranian aid via a number of different ways” adding that this includes arms and money being smuggled into the country via “tourist buses crossing the Syrian – Turkish border destined for Latakia and from there to Damascus” as well as via “some flights from Turkey.” He also revealed that “the Turkish security forces have uncovered a number of such [smuggling] cases.”

Jaber informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the smuggling of arms and financial assistance [into Syria] is in the billions of dollars” adding that “Syria benefit greatly from the strong ties between Iran and Hezbollah, with Hezbollah arms caches [in Lebanon] being smuggled into the country via the Syrian – Lebanese border, as well as funds being delivered by Lebanese businessmen who have significant investments in Europe and who are loyal to Iran.”

The National Resistance of Al Ahwaz spokesman added that “Iran and its followers believe that the collapse of the al-Assad regime will put the expanding Iranian project in the region at risk.”

He also claimed that a number of well-known tourist companies that specialize in tours of the “holy sites” in Syria are owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, adding that these are “used as a cover to smuggle funds and arms into Syria, and from there to other Arab states.”

A Syrian political activist, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Damascus via the internet, stressed that the Syrian regime is continuing to support the al-Assad regime in order to protect its regional interests. He claimed that Tehran has a “vast network of political, economic, and military interests, which will be destroyed if the Bashar al-Assad regime collapses” adding that “the Iranian regime is therefore fighting with all of its strength to ensure that Bashar al-Assad remains president of Syria.”

This Syrian opposition political activist also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the collapse of the al-Assad regime will result in Tehran losing its connecting link with its military arms in the region” in a reference to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. He added that “the Syrian regime’s presence guarantees that Tehran is able to remain in communication with Hamas and Hezbollah…and the collapse of the al-Assad regime will therefore destroy Tehran’s complex network of interests in the region.”

Another Syrian political activist, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via the internet under the kunya “Abu Masa” told Asharq Al-Awsat that ”the Iranian regime is propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime with all available means” adding that “Tehran has even issued orders to Hezbollah members to participate in suppressing the [Syrian] protests.”

This claim was confirmed by Walid al-Qushamie, a Syrian soldier who defected from the al-Assad regime and who, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat last July, said that he met with a number of Hezbollah fighters in a Syrian Republican Guard camp in Damascus.

Abu Masa also said that he believes that Tehran provided Syria with well-trained Iranian snipers, which has resulted in a significant increase in the death toll in Syria.

Bahiya Mardini also told Asharq Al-Awsat that she believes that Iranian snipers have been deployed on the ground in Syria, stressing that the Syrian death toll, and the proficiency and indeed number of the snipers that the al-Assad regime is utilizing to suppress the Syrian protests, does not add up with regards to information regarding the number and proficiency of Syrian military snipers.

Mardini stressed that the “Syrian regime is extremely weak and brittle…and the Bashar al-Assad gang is relying on this Iranian support.” She added “I do not think the Syrian regime would have been able to survive militarily and economically over this long period [since the outbreak of the uprising] without the aid of Tehran.”