With US Secretary of State John Kerry’s confirmation that Bashar Assad gassed his civilian population, Tehran’s involvement in this crisis has been upgraded. Media coverage has been good, but we’d still like to frame the reportage more precisely.
Perhaps viewing the Syrian crisis as an opportunity to test future strategic waters, Iranian officials are increasingly flexing their verbal muscles. No lack of examples here.
Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Republican Guards’ elite Basij force:
“[The Americans] are incapable of starting a new war in the region, because of their lacking economic capabilities and their lack of morale.”
Hossein Sheikholeslam, a member of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly:
“No military attack will be waged against Syria…Yet, if such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria.”
Which sounds a lot like this comment from Khalaf Muftah, a senior Baath Party official who used to serve as Syria’s assistant information minister:
“We have strategic weapons and we’re capable of responding… Normally the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel.”
Clearly they prefer the crisis to focus on the repercussions of international action, rather than on Assad’s use of chemical weapons. This would also promote Iran’s attempt to centrally position itself by supporting the bad guys and offering to help the good guys.
Apropos: UN official Jeffrey Feltman, reportedly stressed the importance of cooperation with Tehran on the Syrian issue during his recent visit there. Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi supposedly also took this road a week earlier.
Which brings us back to Hassan Rouhani, who shortly after entering office reiterated his country’s support for Assad. He’s been more cautious about the chemical massacre, but hasn’t budged from this broader regime policy.