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Assad Interview with Iranian Television

On October 4, Syrian President Bashar al Assad said that he was optimistic about the new cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Russia and Syria in the fight against ISIS. The other week, Iraq announced that the four countries would share intelligence. The “coalition has great chances of success,” he told Iranian Khabar TV channel.

In the wide-ranging interview, Assad also emphasized the importance of Iran’s support for his government and Tehran’s four-point peace plan for Syria. And he expressed openness to the possibility of a dialogue among all Syrians that could produce a referendum on the constitution. The following are excerpts on key issues from a translation by Syrian state media. 

Cooperation with Iran, Russia and Iraq on ISIS Fight
 
“Iran and Russia have suffered different kinds of terrorism. When these countries unite against terrorism and fight it militarily and in the areas of security and information, in addition to other aspects, this coalition will, no doubt, achieve real results on the ground, particularly that it enjoys international support from countries which do not have a direct role in these crises and in this region. This is with the exception of the West, which has always sought to support terrorism, colonization and stood against peoples’ causes, most countries of the world feel the real danger of terrorism.”
 
 
Iran’s Syria Peace Plan
 
“What has changed during this period was the announcement of President Putin’s initiative, particularly in his speech in the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s Collective Security Council in which he identified basically his perception of the initiative, especially in relation to fighting terrorism.
 
“Now, the discussion continues between us and our Iranian brothers at the foreign ministry in order to take into account this important change, so that it becomes not necessarily part of the Iranian initiative, but to make the initiative compatible with these important and positive changes on the Syrian arena, and probably on the Syrian-Iraqi arena. That is why I say that this initiative is very important and necessary, particularly after signing the Iranian nuclear deal, and with European officials starting to communicate with Iran. We believe that the Iranian role has become important for us in Syria through this initiative. Of course, when it is complete the details are integrated, it will be announced.”
 
Iranian Support for Syria
 
“It can be summarized in two words: First, what I said about adherence to principles. The Iranian people are principled. And the second word is loyalty, for the Iranian people have been loyal to Syria which supported Iran when it went through war for eight years. That war had the same objectives which they want to achieve in Syria today, but in a different form, using different tools and under different international circumstances. The Iranian people and leadership have not forgotten Syria’s position at that time. When most countries of the world tried impose sanctions against Iran, Syria was, I don’t want to say the only state, but one of the few states which stood by Iran, but it was the clearest in its position.”
 
Political Process in Syria
 
“Of course, we support any political move in parallel with fighting terrorism. But this needs a number of factors to succeed. When we talk about dialogue among the Syrians, this dialogue has two aspects: there is a dialogue on the future of Syria, and it includes all Syrians. Every Syrian has the right to express an opinion in this dialogue in order to know the shape of the Syria we want. Later, there are institutions, there is the public opinion, there is a referendum on a constitution which might be produced by this dialogue. Whatever the people decide, then, will be binding to us as a state and for me as an official. But there is also a dialogue which is specific to the crisis: how to put an end to terrorism and how to restore security. If we talk about political reform, it does not concern the terrorists, because terrorists do not fight for political reform. They fight because they receive money or because they have a perverted doctrine, or because they want to have a role in a state that becomes another state’s client.”
 
“That is why I say to them [members of the opposition]: if you believe that you are right why don’t you convince the Syrian people, and the Syrian people will decide, through their institutions or the elections, who the president should be. There were elections last year. Where were you? What did you do? What is your impact on the street? Nothing. Their impact is nothing. Every person who lends his decisions to another country is despised by the Syrian people, and his influence will be zero. He becomes a mere talking head in the media. All those who believe in such a proposition should take part in the elections and try to prove their viewpoints. We have no objection. As for me personally, I say once again that if my departure is the solution, I will never hesitate to do that.”

Iran Nuclear Deal
 
“It has a tremendous impact, not in the way some people see it in terms of Iran’s technical, scientific or political capabilities. It has a great and extensive impact on all developing countries, because Iran is a developing country which has broken the knowledge blockade imposed on developing countries in order for the West to monopolize knowledge in certain areas, particularly that oil resources are being exhausted, and the future becoming dependent on nuclear energy.”
 
“On the other hand, you and we are strategic allies; so if Iran is stronger, Syria will be stronger, and vice versa. From another perspective, had Iran abandoned its rights in the nuclear file, that concession would have been used as the new standard which will be applied to other countries, regardless of the legitimate international right of all countries to obtain nuclear energy. In the future, Syria or any other similar country might need nuclear energy. What Iran has won by its steadfastness and through the intelligence of its negotiators will be applied to all these other countries in the future.”
 
“The final aspect is that related to the crisis. Acknowledging the real weight of Iran and its regional role will give it an opportunity to use its increasing influence to persuade the West that their policies are wrong. Of course, I do not pin, nor do you I believe, great hopes on the West changing its colonialist world view and moving in the right direction, but any effort made by Iran must have its impact.”

Click here for a full transcript by the Syrian Arab News Agency.  

 

Photo credit:  Bashar_al-Assad.jpg: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr derivative work: César (Bashar_al-Assad.jpg) [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Economic Trends: August and September

Cameron Glenn

In August and September, Iran’s leaders tried to manage high expectations that the final nuclear deal will carry immediate economic benefits. The deal’s “Implementation Day,” when certain U.S., E.U., and U.N. sanctions will be lifted, will likely not occur until mid-2016. Additionally, the Islamic Republic may experience a severe budget deficit this fiscal year, as oil prices remained low around $45 per barrel. And several key non-oil industries – including automotive, steel, and cement production – are struggling from low demand and regional competition.
 
But European firms, many of which have been barred from doing business with Iran by sanctions, have continued to scope out investment and trade opportunities in Iran. In August and September, Tehran hosted a flurry of foreign trade delegations and signed several new contracts to boost foreign cooperation in energy, transportation, and other key sectors. Austrian President Heinz Fischer became the first European head of state to visit Iran since 2004. Austria and Iran hope to triple bilateral trade by 2020.
 
The following is a rundown of top economic stories with links.
 
Domestic
 
Outlook
 
Around 57 percent of Iranians think economic conditions are improving, according to an August 2015 poll by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. The figure is up from 32 percent in a May 2014 Gallup poll.
 
A plurality of Iranians, around 36 percent, believe that it will take about a year for Iran to see tangible changes in unemployment, living standards, foreign investments, and access to foreign medicines and medical equipment as a result of the nuclear deal.
 
On September 12, First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri blamed high expectations for oversupply and low demand in several Iranian industries. “Unfortunately, some people are expecting a sudden fall in prices after the implementation of the nuclear agreement,” he said.
 
Oil
 
Iran hopes to lure back foreign oil companies by offering more favorable contract terms. In August, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced that Iran will introduce the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) as early as October. Unlike the “buy-back” contracts unpopular with foreign firms, the IPC allows companies to participate in all the stages of an oil or gas field’s lifecycle.
 
Foreign oil companies have sought opportunities to resume work in Iran since the nuclear deal was signed in July. Italian oil company ENI, for example, sent executives to Iran in August as part of a high-ranking business delegation. ENI had been active in Iran before sanctions were tightened in 2010.

 

 

At the same time, Iranian officials emphasized reducing Iran’s dependence on oil. “The oil market, in which prices drop from $100 to $40 in a blink of an eye, is not reliable at all,” Supreme Leader Khamenei said in a meeting with Rouhani and cabinet members on August 25. “We have to consider finding a suitable alternative.”
 
In September, government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said Iran may reduce oil revenues to only 30 percent of the state budget. Oil revenues have typically accounted for around 60 percent, but last year Tehran was forced to revise budget estimates after oil prices dropped in late 2014. Nobakht said that the fluctuations could cause the government to receive 22 percent less revenues this year than anticipated, causing the largest budget deficit since the Iran-Iraq war.
 
“The Iranian economy is based on a single product, a problem which has not been completely resolved yet,” Rouhani said in September. Iran hopes to reach $77.5 billion in non-oil exports in 2015.
 
Gas
 
In September, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh met with officials from Poland and Spain to discuss the possibility of exporting liquefied natural gas to the two countries. European companies estimated that Iran – which holds the world’s second largest natural gas reserves – could supply Europe with up to 35 billion cubic meters of gas per year by 2030.
 
But Iran faces significant roadblocks, including a lack of infrastructure, the need for billions of dollars of investments, competition from other producers, and an excess of natural gas on the market. Alireza Kameli, managing director of the National Iranian Gas Export Company, said that exporting gas to Europe may not prove to be economical, and that the Islamic Republic should focus on exporting gas to its neighbors. In August and September, Iran also reached agreements to expand natural gas exports to Oman and Iraq.
 
Auto industry
 
In August, a social media campaign in Iran began calling for a boycott of Iranian-made cars due to poor quality and safety standards. In September, Minister of Trade, Mining, and Industry Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh called the boycott “sinful” and “anti-revolutionary,” arguing it would hurt the economy.
 
Iranian car production rose 8.7 percent in the first five months of the Iranian calendar year (March-August 2015), but sales of Iranian cars dropped 15 percent in the same period.
 
The automotive industry is Iran’s largest non-oil sector. Western automakers left Iran due to sanctions, but several companies – including Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Peugeot – have expressed interest in returning to Iran once sanctions are lifted.
 
 
Cement
 
Iranian cement exports – a key non-oil industry – declined by 30 percent in the first five months of the Iranian calendar year. Iran is the largest cement producer in the Middle East, but it has struggled in the past few years from low demand, sanctions, and competition from other cement producers such as Turkey.
 
Steel
 
Iran’s steel output grew 60 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to the World Steel Association. Iran imported billions of dollars in steel in the early 2000s, but increased domestic production after sanctions restricted imports. Iranian officials hope that lifting sanctions will allow it to increase steel exports to 10 million tons by 2025.
 
But Iran’s steel industry is also struggling due to low demand, high production costs, and competition from low-quality steel products from China. It has also been hampered by the recent decline in car sales.
 
Water and electricity
 
Iran hopes to earn $50 billion in investments for water and electricity projects once sanctions are lifted, according to Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian. The projects would take around 20 years to complete. The water and electricity sectors have suffered from lack of investment over the last few years and uneven implementation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s subsidy reform program.
 
International
 
United Kingdom
 
Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif announced that two Iranian banks will open in Britain. Seif met with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in August, during his visit to Tehran to reopen the British embassy. A British economic delegation, which included oil and gas companies, visited Iran in early October.

 

 
European Union
 
Iran’s exports to the European Union increased 14 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period last year, according to the E.U. statistics office. Imports from Iran totaled 550 million euros, compared to 480 million euros in the first half of 2014. Masoud Khansari, president of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, said in September that eight major European trade delegations have visited Iran since the nuclear deal was signed, and the Islamic Republic plans to host at least 10 more in the near future.
 
United States
 
Iran plans to resume carpet exports to the United States once sanctions are lifted under the nuclear deal, according to Hamid Kargar, head of Iran’s National Carpet Center. Before sanctions were tightened in 2010, the Islamic Republic exported $80 million in carpets to the United States annually, and the U.S. market accounted for one fifth of Iran’s carpet exports.
 
Austria
 
Austrian firms signed contracts and memoranda of understanding with Iran totaling $89 million during Austrian President Heinz Fischer’s visit to Tehran in September. Fischer was the first European head of state to visit the Islamic Republic since 2004. Iran and Austria hope to increase bilateral trade from $300 million per year to $1 billion per year by 2020.

Turkey
 
Trade between Turkey and Iran declined by 21.8 percent in the first seven months of 2015, compared to the same period last year. Turkey’s exports to Iran rose 22.1 percent, but imports dropped by 34.8 percent, due in part to falling oil prices. The two countries have sought to increase trade volume in 2015, signing a series of bilateral trade agreements earlier this year.
 

 

Other countries
 

In August and September, Iran also took steps to improve bilateral economic ties with several other nations. They included the following:

  • Iraq signed three deals on economic cooperation with Iran.
  • France opened a trade office in Tehran during a visit from a business delegation with representatives from Airbus, Renault, Peugeot, and Total.
  • Mexico signed a memorandum of understanding on labor cooperation with Iran.
  • South Korea’s export credit agency announced it would help finance $5 billion worth of projects by Korean firms in Iran.
  • Italy’s development ministry and export credit agency signed a memorandum of understanding "to facilitate future economic and commercial relations” with Iran.
  • South Africa – formerly the leading African importer of Iranian oil – signed a deal to increase oil imports from Iran once sanctions are lifted.
  • Officials in Bangladesh and China met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss improving trade ties.
  • A Spanish delegation visited Tehran to pursue cooperation in tourism, transportation, and energy.
  • Armenia negotiated a series of deals with Iran in railroads, gas, and electricity to implement once sanctions are lifted.
  • Serbian agricultural ministers hosted their counterparts from Iran and discussed opportunities for collaboration.

 

Cameron Glenn is a senior program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

 

Tags: Economy

Regional Leaders at UNGA: On Iran

Top officials from across the Middle East and South Asia discussed Iran during their visits to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. Some leaders welcomed the nuclear deal or proposed new dialogue with Iran while others accused Tehran of meddling in the region. The following are excerpted remarks.

Saudi Arabia
 
Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir
 
“The Iranian president is the last to discuss democracy in Syria. If it was not for Iran, there would not be the destruction and killing we see today in Syria. Iran supports Bashar Al-Assad by sending thousands of militants and fueling sectarianism between Sunnis and Shiites in Syria and the whole region. They recruit Hezbollah and other militias in the area and send them to Syria to defend Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.”
 
“[T]he problem in Yemen was due to Houthis, along with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh overthrowing the government. The Houthis have gone to war multiple times in Yemen.  Iran has relations with the Houthis, as it provides them with weapons and specialists, and Iran is one of the main reasons behind the war in Yemen. Iran is trying to fan the flames in Yemen by smuggling weapons to the Houthis in violation of UN Resolution 2216. Their last attempt was on Saturday, when an Iranian ship loaded with weapons was intercepted.  So, Iran is the last country to speak of stability and security in Yemen. Iran is one of the main reasons for what is happening in Yemen today.”
 
“We have previously said that it is unacceptable to use such human tragedy politically, which happened while people were performing a religious ritual.”
 
“The Iranians know very well that the Kingdom will do everything in its capacity to provide and facilitate visits to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. The Iranians realize that the Kingdom is doing tremendous work for the service of the guests of Makkah. And I believe what they said contradicts the idea of sovereignty and non-interference. The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques was clear when he ordered a thorough investigation and will hold any individual or organization accountable if found guilty. This investigation is ongoing and we will make the results public.  The Iranians are the last to speak of Hajj and pilgrims, because they have caused chaos multiple times in the past, through protests in the 80s, which resulted in a number of death due to their riots.”
—Sept. 28, 2015 in an interview with Al-Arabiya in New York
 

 
“There are parties trying to worsen and escalate the crisis in Yemen through the smuggling of arms.”
 
“…We welcomed the recent agreement between the group of P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which prevents Iran from the acquisition of nuclear weapons. We also call on Iran to renounce its negative interventions in Arab affairs and we are desirous of building good neighborly relations with Iran based on mutual respect and good neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of other countries. We also call on Iran to end its occupation of the three Arab islands of the United Arab Emirates.”

—Oct. 1, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly

Yemen
 
President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour
 
“Three years ago I found myself at this very podium before you…At that time I told you that Iran was hindering the continuance of the [peace] process and that that country was training Houthi militias and providing them with weapons—this through boats and vessels—so as to impose the Iranian model in Yemen.”
 
“We find ourselves mixed in this battle for the legitimacy of the State, to prevent the country from falling into the hands of Iran.”
 
“We shall not allow the Houthis, nor anyone else, to repeat the Iranian experience in Yemen.”
 

—Sept. 29, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly

 

United Arab Emirates
 
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
 
“The UAE believes that security and stability of the states of the region depend on the extent of their positive cooperation, which must take as its fundamental pillar respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. With regard to the statement by the President of Iran during this session’s general debate, I believe that Iran’s record does not qualify it to speak about the safety of the Hajj pilgrims and human rights, nor do its policies give it the right to refer to stability issues in the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East. The UAE stands firm with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any Iranian attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Arab States.”
 
“In this regard, I reiterate the United Arab Emirates rejection of Iran’s continued occupation of the UAE three islands Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, and demand restoration of the UAE full sovereignty over these islands. We also stress that all actions and measures carried out by the Iranian authorities are contrary to international law and all norms and common values. From this platform, we renew our call to the international community to urge Iran to respond to the sincere and peaceful calls of the UAE to reach a just settlement for this issue, either through serious direct negotiations between our two countries or by referring the issue to the International Court of Justice.”
—Oct. 2, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly
 
Qatar
 
Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani
 
“The agreement between Iran and the 5+1 Group is a positive and important step. As we look forward with hope that this nuclear agreement contributes to maintaining security and stability in our region, we further demand moving forward to disarm the entire region of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction.”
 
“On this occasion, I assure that Iran is an important neighbor country, and that cooperation between it and our countries is in the interest of the region.”
 
“Bilateral relations between Qatar and Iran are growing and evolving steadily on the basis of common interests and good neighborliness. There is no dispute concerning bilateral relations between our two countries. At the level of the region there are various creeds and religions, but there is no, in my opinion, a Shiite-Sunni conflict in essence, but rather differences that are triggered by the political interests of countries, or the interests of political and social forces that foment internal sect-centric prejudices.”
 
“The existing disputes in my opinion, are political regional Arab-Iranian differences, rather than being a Sunni-Shiite disputes. This could be solved through dialogue, and initially agreeing on the rules governing the relationship between Iran and the Gulf States on the basis of non-interference in internal affairs. It is time to conduct a meaningful dialogue of this kind between countries that will always remain neighbors, and are not in need of mediation from anyone. We are ready to host a dialogue of this kind in Qatar.”
—Sept. 28, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly
 
Israel
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
 
“[A]fter three days of listening to world leaders praise the nuclear deal with Iran, I begin my speech today by saying: Ladies and Gentlemen, check your enthusiasm at the door. You see, this deal doesn't make peace more likely. By fueling Iran’s aggressions with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it makes war more likely.
 
“Just look at what Iran has done in the last six months alone, since the framework agreement was announced in Lausanne. Iran boosted its supply of devastating weapons to Syria. Iran sent more soldiers of its Revolutionary Guard into Syria. Iran sent thousands of Afghani and Pakistani Shi’ite fighters to Syria. Iran did all this to prop up Assad's brutal regime. Iran also shipped tons of weapons and ammunitions to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, including another shipment just two days ago.
 

 
“Iran threatened to topple Jordan. Iran’s proxy Hezbollah smuggled into Lebanon SA-22 missiles to down our planes, and Yakhont cruise missiles to sink our ships. Iran supplied Hezbollah with precision-guided surface-to-surface missiles and attack drones so it can accurately hit any target in Israel. Iran aided Hamas and Islamic Jihad in building armed drones in Gaza.
 
“Iran also made clear its plans to open two new terror fronts against Israel, promising to arm Palestinians in the West Bank and sending its Revolutionary Guard generals to the Golan Heights, from which its operatives recently fired rockets on northern Israel.”
—Oct. 1, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly

 

Syria
 
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates
 
“The Syrian Arab Republic would like to congratulate the Islamic Republic of Iran on its steadfastness and victory in achieving the historic agreement that fulfils the aspirations of the brotherly people of Iran, recognizes the right of Iran to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, lifts the sanctions imposed against it, as well as lifts the freeze on its assets, and leads to opening up of the international arena on this brotherly country. This agreement proves that the diligent and serious diplomatic approach is able to overcome all obstacles and result in peaceful and fair solutions for thorny files.”
 
“Imposing unethical unilateral coercive economic measures by the United States and the European Union contradicts the rules of international law and the principles of free trade. On this basis, we call for the lifting of the blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba for decades, as we renew our call to lift and stop all the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria and the peoples of other countries such as Iran, DPRK, Venezuela and Belarus.”
—Oct. 2, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly
 
Pakistan
 
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
 
“We welcome the comprehensive nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1. This shows what diplomatic engagement and multilateralism can achieve. It augurs well for the peace and security of our region and beyond.”
—Sept. 30, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly
 
Lebanon
 
President of the Council of Ministers
 
“We followed with great interest the recent agreement between Iran and the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, hoping that this development will open a new page in international relations and will mark the beginning of an improvement in the regional environments, which will reflect positively on the political situation in Lebanon.”
—Sept. 30, 2015, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly

 

 

Iranian Officials on Syria, Possible Solutions

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 
 
 

Netanyahu at UNGA: On Iran, Syria

On October 1, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the nuclear deal with Iran during his address to the U.N. General Assembly. “By fueling Iran’s aggressions with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it makes war more likely,” he said. He also spoke at length about Iran’s policies in the region and support for proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon. The following is an excerpt from his speech.  

 
Thirty-one years ago, as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, I stood at this podium for the first time.
           
I spoke that day against a resolution sponsored by Iran to expel Israel from the United Nations. 
 
Then as now, the UN was obsessively hostile towards Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East.
 
Then as now, some sought to deny the one and only Jewish state a place among the nations.
 
I ended that first speech by saying: 
Gentlemen, check your fanaticism at the door.
           
More than three decades later, as the Prime Minister of Israel, I am again privileged to speak from this podium.
 
And for me, that privilege has always come with a moral responsibility to speak the truth.
 
So after three days of listening to world leaders praise the nuclear deal with Iran, I begin my speech today by saying: 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen, check your enthusiasm at the door.
 
You see, this deal doesn't make peace more likely. 
 
By fueling Iran’s aggressions with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it makes war more likely.
 
Just look at what Iran has done in the last six months alone, since the framework agreement was announced in Lausanne.
 
Iran boosted its supply of devastating weapons to Syria.
 
Iran sent more soldiers of its Revolutionary Guard into Syria. Iran sent thousands of Afghani and Pakistani Shi’ite fighters to Syria.
 
Iran did all this to prop up Assad's brutal regime.
 
Iran also shipped tons of weapons and ammunitions to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, including another shipment just two days ago.
 
Iran threatened to topple Jordan.
 
Iran’s proxy Hezbollah smuggled into Lebanon SA-22 missiles to down our planes, and Yakhont cruise missiles to sink our ships.
 
Iran supplied Hezbollah with precision-guided surface-to-surface missiles and attack drones so it can accurately hit any target in Israel.
 
Iran aided Hamas and Islamic Jihad in building armed drones in Gaza.
 
Iran also made clear its plans to open two new terror fronts against Israel, promising to arm Palestinians in the West Bank and sending its Revolutionary Guard generals to the Golan Heights, from which its operatives recently fired rockets on northern Israel.
 
Israel will continue to respond forcefully to any attacks against it from Syria.
 
Israel will continue to act to prevent the transfer of strategic weapons to Hezbollah from and through Syrian territory.
 
Every few weeks, Iran and Hezbollah set up new terror cells in cities throughout the world. Three such cells were recently uncovered in Kuwait, Jordan and Cyprus.
 
In May, security forces in Cyprus raided a Hezbollah agent’s apartment in the city of Larnaca. There they found five tons of ammonium nitrate, that's roughly the same amount of ammonium nitrate that was used to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.
 
And that’s just in one apartment, in one city, in one country.
 
But Iran is setting up dozens of terror cells like this around the world, ladies and gentlemen, they're setting up those terror cells in this hemisphere too.
 
I repeat: Iran’s been doing all of this, everything that I've just described,  just in the last six months, when it was trying to convince the world to remove the sanctions.
 
Now just imagine what Iran will do after those sanctions are lifted.
 
Unleashed and un-muzzled, Iran will go on the prowl, devouring more and more prey.
 
In the wake of the nuclear deal, Iran is spending billions of dollars on weapons and satellites.
 
You think Iran is doing that to advance peace?
 
You think hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief and fat contracts will turn this
rapacious tiger into a kitten?
 
If you do, you should think again.
 
In 2013 president Rouhani began his so-called charm offensive here at the UN. Two years later, Iran is executing more political prisoners, escalating its regional aggression, and rapidly expanding its global terror network.
 
You know they say, actions speak louder than words.
 
But in Iran’s case, the words speak as loud as the actions.
 
Just listen to the Deputy Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. Here's what he said in February:
 
“The Islamic revolution is not limited by geographic borders….” He boasted that Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Yemen are among the countries being “conquered by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
 
And for those of you who believe that the deal in Vienna will bring a change in Iran’s policy, just listen to what Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said five days after the nuclear deal was reached: “Our policies towards the arrogant government of the United States will not change.”
 
The United States, he vowed, will continue to be Iran’s enemy.
 
While giving the mullahs more money is likely to fuel more repression inside Iran, it will definitely fuel more aggression outside Iran.
 
As the leader of a country defending itself every day against Iran’s growing aggression, I wish I could take comfort in the claim that this deal blocks Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.
 
But I can’t, because it doesn’t.
 
This deal does place several constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.
 
And rightly so, because the international community recognizes that Iran is so dangerous.
 
But you see here’s the catch:
 
Under this deal, If Iran doesn’t change its behavior, In fact, if it becomes even more dangerous in the years to come, the most important constraints will still be automatically lifted by year 10 and by year 15.
 
That would place a militant Islamic terror regime weeks away from having the fissile material for an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs.
 
That just doesn’t make any sense.
 
I’ve said that if Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.
 
But this deal, this deal will treat Iran like a normal country even if it remains a dark theocracy that conquers its neighbors, sponsors terrorism worldwide and chants “Death to Israel”, “Death to America.”
 
Does anyone seriously believe that flooding a radical theocracy with weapons and cash will curb its appetite for aggression?
 
Do any of you really believe that a theocratic Iran with sharper claws and sharper fangs will be more likely to change its stripes?
 
So here's a general rule that I've learned and you must have learned in your life time - When bad behavior is rewarded, it only gets worse.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I have long said that the greatest danger facing our world is the coupling of militant Islam with nuclear weapons.
 
And I’m gravely concerned that the nuclear deal with Iran will prove to be the marriage certificate of that unholy union.
 
I know that some well-intentioned people sincerely believe that this deal is the best way to block Iran’s path to the bomb.
 
But one of history’s most important yet least learned lessons is this:
 
The best intentions don’t prevent the worst outcomes.
 
The vast majority of Israelis believe that this nuclear deal with Iran is a very bad deal.
 
And what makes matters even worse is that we see a world celebrating this bad deal, rushing to embrace and do business with a regime openly committed to our destruction.
 
Last week, Major General Salehi, the commander of Iran’s army, proclaimed this:
 
“We will annihilate Israel for sure.”
 
“We are glad that we are in the forefront of executing the Supreme Leader’s order to destroy Israel.”
 
And as for the Supreme Leader himself, a few days after the nuclear deal was announced, he released his latest book.
Here it is.
 
It’s a 400-page screed detailing his plan to destroy the State of Israel.
           
Last month, Khamenei once again made his genocidal intentions clear before Iran's top clerical body, the Assembly of Experts.
 
He spoke about Israel, home to over six million Jews.
He pledged, “there will be no Israel in 25 years.”
 
Seventy years after the murder of six million Jews,
Iran’s rulers promise to destroy my country.
 
Murder my people.
 
And the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing!
 
Utter silence!
 
Deafening silence.
 
Perhaps you can now understand why Israel is not joining you in celebrating this deal.
 
If Iran’s rulers were working to destroy your countries, perhaps you’d be less enthusiastic about the deal. 
 
If Iran’s terror proxies were firing thousands of rockets at your cities, perhaps you’d be more measured in your praise.
 
And if this deal were unleashing a nuclear arms race in your neighborhood, perhaps you’d be more reluctant to celebrate.
 
But don’t think that Iran is only a danger to Israel.
 
Besides Iran’s aggression in the Middle East and its terror around the world, Iran is also building intercontinental ballistic missiles whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear warheads.
 
Now remember this: Iran already has missiles that can reach Israel.
 
So those intercontinental ballistic missiles that Iran is building - they're not meant for us –
They’re meant for you.
 
For Europe.
 
For America.
 
For raining down mass destruction – anytime, anywhere.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It’s not easy to oppose something that is embraced by the greatest powers in the world.
 
Believe me, it would be far easier to remain silent.
 
But throughout our history, the Jewish people have learned the heavy price of silence.
 
And as the Prime Minister of the Jewish State, as someone who knows that history,
 
I refuse to be silent.
 
I’ll say it again:
 
The days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies –
those days are over.
 
Not being passive means speaking up about those dangers.
 
We have. We are.
We will.
 
Not being passive also means defending ourselves against those dangers.
           
We have. We are.
And we will.
 
Israel will not allow Iran to break-in, to sneak-in or to walk-in to the nuclear weapons club. 
 
I know that preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons remains the official policy of the international community.
 
But no one should question Israel’s determination to defend itself against those who seek our destruction.
 
For in every generation, there were those who rose up to destroy our people.
 
In antiquity, we faced destruction from the ancient empires of Babylon and Rome.
 
In the Middle Ages, we faced inquisition and expulsion.
 
And In modern times, we faced pogroms and the Holocaust.
 
Yet the Jewish people persevered.
 
And now another regime has arisen, swearing to destroy Israel.
 
That regime would be wise to consider this:
 
I stand here today representing Israel, a country 67 years young,
but the nation-state of a people nearly 4,000 years old.
 
Yet the empires of Babylon and Rome are not represented in this hall of nations.
Neither is the Thousand Year Reich. 
 
Those seemingly invincible empires are long gone.  
 
But Israel lives.
 
The people of Israel live.
 
The re-birth of Israel is a testament to the indomitable spirit of my people.
 
For a hundred generations, the Jewish people dreamed of returning to the
Land of Israel.
 
Even in our darkest hours, and we had so many, even in our darkest hours we never gave up hope of rebuilding our eternal capital Jerusalem. 
 
The establishment of Israel made realizing that dream possible.
 
It has enabled us to live as a free people in our ancestral homeland.
 
It's enabled us to embrace Jews who've come from the four corners of the earth to find refuge from persecution.
 
They came from war-torn Europe, from Yemen, Iraq, Morocco, from Ethiopia and the Soviet Union, from a hundred other lands.
 
And today, as a rising tide of anti-Semitism once again sweeps across Europe and elsewhere, many Jews come to Israel to join us in building the Jewish future.
 
So here’s my message to the rulers of Iran:
 
Your plan to destroy Israel will fail.
 
Israel will not permit any force on earth to threaten its future. 
 
And here's my message to all the countries represented here:
 
Whatever resolutions you may adopt in this building, whatever decisions you may take in your capitals, Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state and to defend our people.
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
As this deal with Iran moves ahead, I hope you’ll enforce it…how can I put this? With a little more rigor than you showed with the six Security Council resolutions that Iran has systematically violated and which now have been effectively discarded.
 
Make sure that the inspectors actually inspect.
 
Make sure that the snapback sanctions actually snap back.
 
And make sure that Iran’s violations aren’t swept under the Persian rug.
 
Well, of one thing I can assure you:
Israel will be watching… closely.
 
What the international community now needs to do is clear:
 
First, make Iran comply with all its nuclear obligations.
 
Keep Iran’s feet to the fire.
 
Second, check Iran’s regional aggression.
 
Support and strengthen those fighting Iran’s aggression, beginning with Israel.
 
Third, use sanctions and all the tools available to you to tear down Iran’s global terror network.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Israel is working closely with our Arab peace partners to address our common security challenges from Iran and also the security challenges from ISIS and from others.
 
We are also working with other states in the Middle East as well as countries in Africa, in Asia and beyond.
 
Many in our region know that both Iran and ISIS are our common enemies.
 
And when your enemies fight each other, don’t strengthen either one – weaken both.
 
Common dangers are clearly bringing Israel and its Arab neighbors closer. 
 
And as we work together to thwart those dangers, I hope we'll build lasting partnerships – lasting partnerships for security, for prosperity and for peace.   
 
But in Israel, we never forget one thing. We never forget that the most important partner that Israel has has always been, and will always be, the United States of America.
 
The alliance between Israel and the United States is unshakeable.
 
President Obama and I agree on the need to keep arms out of the hands of Iran’s terror proxies.
 
We agree on the need to stop Iran from destabilizing countries throughout the Middle East.
Israel deeply appreciates President Obama’s willingness to bolster our security, help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge and help Israel confront the enormous challenges we face.
 
Israel is grateful that this sentiment is widely shared by the American people and its representatives in Congress, by both those who supported the deal and by those who opposed it.
 
President Obama and I have both said that our differences over the nuclear deal are a disagreement within the family.
 
 
 
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