By Jaya Ramachandran | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) – As drums of war beat louder, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that “resorting to force in the Middle East will ignite a fire, which will be difficult to contain”, highlighted Tehran’s role in encouraging the Syrian government to accept and cooperate with the UN inspectors, criticized President Bashar Hafez al-Assad for some “grave mistakes” and bashed the U.S. for playing into the hands of “radical Takfiri groups that seek intensification of the conflict, violence and sectarianism”.
In an interview with Aseman Weekly (Sky Weekly) in Tehran, Foreign Minister Zarif said Iran had alerted the U.S. in December 2012 that “handmade articles of chemical weapons, including sarin gas,” were being transported into Syria. The warning was conveyed in an official memo to Washington through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which serves as the U.S. interests section in Iranian capital, he said.
“In the same note, we warned [Washington] that radical groups might be planning to use these chemical agents. During this period [of war in Syria] Takfiri groups have been encouraged to continue their fratricide and war the result of which has been human catastrophes some photos of which we have already seen in the media,” Zarif added.
However, according to the Iranian foreign minister, the U.S. administration did not respond to the memo, reports Iran Review, which carried translated excerpts of the interview. “Now, after the supporters of radical groups saw that such groups have gained nothing inside Syria, they have joined hands to lay a trap for the entire region and the United States as well to wage a new war in cooperation with those groups whose interests are tied to the war,” Zarif asserted.
He pointed out that “due to encouragement from Iran and Russia, the Syrian government had accepted to offer full cooperation to the United Nations inspectors who aimed to take samples from the sites where the alleged chemical attack had taken place.”
The Iranian foreign minister said that just in the same way that “we encouraged Syria to fully cooperate with the United Nations, we think that Syria should also hand in all [available evidence] it has [to UN authorities], so that, it would become clear under what conditions the chemical weapons have been used.” In this way, Zarif added, the trap that has been laid for the government of Syria as well as for those who want to launch military strike against this country will be thwarted.
“Apart from a warmongering group and a political group which has made wrong choices in the past, nobody would benefit from military action [against Syria]. By the way, that political group which has made wrong choices, may just find a temporary breathing space [as a result of waging war against Syria] without getting its main problem solves [through such a war],” the Iranian foreign minister said.
Asked about the impact of direct contacts between Iran and the United States on efforts made to find a solution to Syria crisis, Zarif said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran has communicated its positions [on the situation in Syria] to the American officials through notes which have been sent through the Switzerland Embassy [in Tehran]. Unfortunately, there is one big problem with the American leaders. Instead of being [true] leaders [for their people] they are followers of specific political currents and certain interest groups.”
“We are trying to make the Americans understand that when a government takes its vote from its people to lead their country, it should not become a follower of specific groups,” the Iranian foreign minister stressed.
Syrian mistakes and U.S. ignorance
Speaking about the role of [the incumbent Syrian President] Bashar Assad in the evolution of the ongoing crisis in Syria, Zarif said: “We believe that the government in Syria has made grave mistakes and, unfortunately, [those mistakes] have paved the way for the situation in the country to be abused [by foreign powers].
“However, let’s not forget that these conditions are actually being abused [for the wrong purpose]. The measures which have been taken by the opposition in Syria during the past two years, firstly, have not been taken by a democratic group seeking freedom, and secondly, have been taken by radical Takfiri groups that seek intensification of the conflict, violence and sectarianism. These groups form a minority, which unfortunately, has a loud voice.”
The Iranian foreign minister added: “We hope that logic and wisdom would finally prevail and prevent [a new] war [from being waged in the region]. The realities on the ground, however, show that the drums of war are being beaten. When the war drums are beaten there is usually no more room for logic and wisdom.”
The Iranian foreign minister continued by saying that the best practical initiative that Iran can take to prevent a war is “to show the pure realities of the region [to the American leaders].”
“Some people think that the Americans know everything. However, as we have already seen both in Afghanistan and in Iraq that the Americans happen to be unaware of many real conditions and easily fall into traps. Therefore, enlightenment is very important in this regard. The powerful countries are sometimes plagued so direly with their own delusions that they think they can solve all problems through mere reliance on brute force,” Zarif added.
Responding to President Barrack Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. Congress, the Iranian Foreign Minister said on September 2, 2013 that the Congress was in no position to give green light for a “collective” military intervention in crisis-hit Syria.
“Only the UN Security Council, under special circumstances, can authorize a collective action, and that [will be] under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, and this issue needs the approval of the Security Council,” said Zarif, according to Iran Review.
Zarif said: “Mr. Obama cannot interpret and change the international law based on his own wish,” adding that “It would be wise that Mr. Obama takes the several-day chance created for him to think twice about the issue, as warmongering is not in the interest of anyone.”
Resorting to force in the Middle East will ignite a fire, which will be difficult to contain, warned Zarif. The Iranian Foreign Minister censured a possible attack on Syria, saying that the United States cannot control the repercussions of such a strike.
“Using force has very dangerous consequences… which are not within the control of the initiator,” said Zarif, adding that it is not yet clear who was behind the chemical attack. He also denounced any use of chemical weapons “in any form and by anyone,” saying, a military attack could harm the international security as it is against “the most basic principles of the international law.”
The Iranian foreign minister also stressed the need for the international law as well as efforts by the United Nations and the international community to work out a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Zarif discussed the latest developments in Syria with UN-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, and expressed concern about any new “act of adventurism” in the region.
The top Iranian diplomat has also discussed Syria with the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, Algeria, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Jordan, and Kuwait. He also called on UN inspectors to continue their investigation into the gas attack near the Syrian capital, which killed hundreds.
Iran Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham also said militarism and adventurism will have no result in the Middle East, calling for a political solution to Syria crisis. “Iran has repeatedly issued necessary warnings about adventurism in the Middle East region and the consequences of a military action against Syria,” Afkham said.
“Iran has clear viewpoints on regional issues and we believe political approaches must be applied to crises including the crisis in Syria,” the new Iranian spokeswoman stated.
Afkham described preparing the ground for negotiations among different Syrian sides as a political solution and urged all regional countries to move in this direction. She went on to ask regional states to refrain from adventurism which would have serious consequences and create more tension in the Middle East. [IDN-InDepthNews – September 2, 2013]
Photo: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif | Credit: Wikimedia Commons