Faced with chemical weapons use in Syria, it appears from the reportage that Iran is currently struggling between the typical knee-jerk reaction and a more sober approach.
(No amateur when it comes to politics and diplomacy, of course, Zarif has quickly adjusted to the change in style: he appears to have been the first world official to announce Bashar Assad’s alleged readiness to allow in UN inspectors.)
Rouhani’s mentioning of Iran’s past suffering at the hands of Iraqi chemical weapons is nothing new. Indeed, Iranian diplomacy consistently raises this point in world fora. What may be new, however, is inclusion of the issue in the Syria context – where Assad’s culpability is a matter of growing international consensus.
Of course, the media’s task at the moment does not begin and end with monitoring the response by Iran – which clearly knows who just used chemical weapons in Syria. For example, one question worth probing is what role Tehran may have played over the years in advancing the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program. Apropos, according to this Washington Post piece:
Syria has expanded its chemical weapons arsenal in recent years with help from Iran and by using front organizations to buy sophisticated equipment it claimed was for civilian programs.
There are also aspects to developments in Syria with bearing on the wider crisis with Iran, as pointed out in the past few days by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In his view, “Syria has become Iran’s testing ground,” and that Tehran is “closely watching whether and how the world responds.”
Who knows, he may be right.