Iranian Officials on Syria, Possible Solutions

October 1, 2015

Iranian officials have long expressed their unwavering support for Syria and President Bashar al Assad. But while some officials have said it is Iran’s duty to support the Syrian government militarily, others have stressed the importance of a political solution to the conflict. In interviews and meetings on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly opening in New York, President Hassan Rouhani said terrorists operating in Syria must first be defeated before political reforms can be discussed. But he also said that Iran “will sit down at any table with countries inside and outside the region” to discuss the conflict. Rouhani also referred to the four-point peace plan submitted by Iran’s foreign minister to Assad in August, but said Iran will provide more information after discussing it with other countries.

President Obama, in his U.N. address, highlighted American willingness to work with Iran towards a resolution to the conflict. Iranian officials, however, are suspicious of U.S. intentions in Syria and have begun to partner more closely with Russia.In September, Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria agreed to share intelligence related to the fight against ISIS.
 
Russian and Iranian officials have argued that there are no prospects for a long-term military solution to the Syrian conflict. But on September 30, Russia carried out its first round of airstrikes in Syria, claiming to target ISIS. U.S. officials, however, said one of the strikes hit an area held by U.S.-backed rebels. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seemed to welcome Russia’s move. “It is important. It will move people to decide about the real political solution, so it [the war] comes to its end,” he said. The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian officials on the Syrian conflict, support for Assad, and the role of the U.S. and Russia in Syria. 
 
President Hassan Rouhani 
 
“Iran will use all its political power and capabilities to solve the Syrian issue and establish security and peace.” 
—Aug. 5, 2015, in a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem according to Mehr News Agency 
 
"We will sit down at any table with countries inside and outside the region." 
—September 8, 2015, when asked if Iran would discuss Syria with adversaries such as Saudi Arabia or the United States, via Reuters 
 
“Look, in a county where a large segment of the country has been occupied by terrorists, and there is bloodshed inside the country, millions of people have been displaced, how is it possible that we fight the terrorists of this country without supporting and helping the government of that country? How can we fight the terrorists without the government staying? Of course, after we have fought terrorism and a secure environment is created, then it is time to talk about the constitution, or the future regime to talk and discuss opposition groups and supporters sit at the table, but during a situation of bloodshed and during an occupation of the country, what options exist?” 
—Sept. 20, 2015 in an interview with CBS News 
 
“In Syria, when our first objective is to drive out terrorists and combating terrorists to defeat them, we have no solution other than to strengthen the central authority and the central government of that country as a central seat of power." 
 
“So I think today everyone has accepted that President Assad must remain so that we can combat the terrorists." 
 
"However, as soon as this movement reaches the various levels of success and starts driving out the terrorists on a step-by-step basis, then other plans must be put into action so as to hear the voices of the opposition as well." 
 
“Iran, with the United States, does not have any direct talks vis-a-vis Syria. But Iran simultaneously with the European Union, as well as other countries, does have talks regarding Syria."  
 
"And those parties to the talks with Iran about Syria are in direct conversations with the United States as well. So perhaps not direct, but there are talks." 
—Sept. 27, 2015, in an interview with  CNN’s Christiane Amanpour
 
“Do we wish for the terrorists to have complete control, unabated control, over a country to hold the reins of the government of that country? Then let's imagine and picture what type of an unprecedented tragedy we will face. We do have a saying that we say between worse and bad we must choose bad, or in other words, we choose the lesser of two evils. 
 
“So if we leave a scenario, the composition of which we know full well, what formula will we pursue? So everyone — we have reached a conclusion that everyone must help the Syrian government in Damascus now so that the Syrian army can succeed in driving out the terrorists. Only then, the time will be at hand for the opposition to the Assad government to have a role so that they would come and, within the framework of the constitution, to hold dialogue and negotiations between the opposition and the government and to reach a conclusion, an agreement. We don't believe in having a single voice in a country; we do believe in a multitude of different viewpoints participating. 
 
“So what is the priority today in Syria? Is it to fight against terrorism, or is it political reforms in Syria? Perhaps political reform is needed. However, is that today's priority? We believe that it's driving out the terrorists.” 
—Sept. 28, 2015 in an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep
 
“If I deem it necessary that security will be established in Syria, Iraq or Yemen, and that the people of these countries will be relieved, I would visit anywhere if necessary and talk to anyone if necessary, but it will be conditioned on this point that I be sure that it will protect the lives and security of these countries,” 
—Sept. 29, 2015, to reporters upon arrival in Tehran from New York, via Tehran Times 
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
“We consider the solution to problems in Syria as political and don’t see any prospect for a military solution.”  
 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that respecting Syrians' sovereignty and self-determination through voting and non-interference of foreigners in the internal affairs of the people, especially the subject of leaderships of Syria, are issues to be decided by the Syrian people.” 
—Aug. 12, 2015, in a meeting in Damascus, via Fars News Agency 
 
“It is time for the other players and our neighbors to take note of reality, listen to the demands of the Syrian people and work for combatting extremism and terrorism." 
—Aug. 12, 2015, after talks with Bashar al-Assad, according to The Associated Press
 
“Those who have set a condition about the Syrian president in the past two years should be blamed for the continued war and they should account for the bloodshed in the past few years.”  
—Sept. 7, 2015, in a press conference according to Fars News Agency via Iran Front Page 
 
“Peace will not return to Syria with the slogans we are hearing from Syria's neighboring countries.” 
 
[Whether Assad stays or goes is a] “decision for the Syrian people to make.” 
Sept. 7, 2015, at a press conference via The Associated Press 
 
“Putting aside any of the regional players would just delay the resolution of crisis,” 
Sept. 23, 2015, in a meeting with the President of the UNGA via Tasnim News 
 
“[To set] irrational preconditions to end the Syria crisis would prolong the crisis,” 
—Sept. 29, 2015 in a meeting with Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic at the UNGA via PressTV 
 
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
 
With regards to the official request by the Syrian government from the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran considers Russia’s military action against armed terrorist groups in Syria as a step toward the fight on terrorism and the resolution of the ongoing crisis that has resulted from it [terrorism].”
—Oct. 1, 2015, according to Press TV
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian 
 
“Simultaneous with all-out cooperation with neighbors and regional countries, Iran will continue to firmly support its regional allies.” 
Aug. 4, 2015, in reference to Syria, according to Fars News Agency 
 
"Political solution is the only way to put an end to the Syrian crisis and Bashar Assad is part of that solution." 
Sept. 2, 2015, in Beirut according to Fars News Agency 
 
"Any successful plan to find a solution to the Syrian crisis must take into consideration the central role of the Syrian people in deciding their future and fate, and the role of the government and of Assad are essential and pivotal in the potential solution," 
Sept. 3, 2015, at a news conference in Damascus via Yahoo News 
 
“Iran and Russia are the serious and main partners in a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Syria, and emphasize that Bashar al-Assad, the legitimate president of this country, should be part of the negotiations about Syria’s political future,” 
Sept. 22, 2015, in Moscow via PressTV 
 
"We hope that the US could understand that the realities on the ground in Syria by adopting a realistic approach towards that country; we are waiting for Washington's change of attitude in this regard." 
 
"If Washington in real sense supports political solution to the Syrian crisis and shows seriousness in fighting terrorism such behavior will be useful for the regional and international security." 
Sept. 23, 2015 to reporters in Moscow via Fars News Agency 
 
 
Chief of Staff to President Rouhani, Mohammad Nahavandian 
“The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been that fighting terrorism should come as the first priority for regional issues. And that can be another platform if the sincerity of all sides can be shown in action.” 
Sept. 26, 2015 on future cooperation between the U.S. and Iran via Al-Monitor  
 
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani 
 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran feels duty-bound to back the Syrian government and nation until the ground is prepared for dialog and peace in Syria.” 
—Sept. 1, 2015, in a meeting with Speaker of the Syrian People’s Assembly Mohammad Jihad-al-Laham in New York, via PressTV 
 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran continues its support for Syria and believes that, with a novel political strategy and initiative, Syrian leaders should be given the opportunity to solve their domestic problems and overcome the terrorists,” 
—Sept. 16, 2015 in a meeting with Syrian Ambassador to Tehran Adnan Mahmoud according to PressTV 
 
Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader’s advisor for international affairs 
“No one can save Syria from this situation like Assad and the UN Security Council members as well as the neighboring and regional states should try to find a solution.” 
—Sept. 7, 2015, after a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo in Tehran according to Fars News Agency via Iran Front Page 
 
Mohammed Reza Shaybani, Iranian ambassador to Syria 
 
“We have to respect Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity…Iran does not interfere in Syrian domestic affairs. Our relations are historical and strategic. Our role is limited to consultation with the Syrian government for the sake of combating terrorism.” 
“We provide advice to the Syrian government and the Syrian army…It is natural that that requires us to see reality on the ground. The military advisers need to have a clear understanding of the situation on the battlefield. That does not mean that we have a lot of troops in Syria; we do not have a direct role in the fighting.” 
—Sept. 21, 2015, in an interview with The Guardian