Iran Review – Interview with Hossein Royvaran
During the past month, high-ranking officials from Iran and Syria have been busy paying mutual visits to Tehran and Damascus. What is the reason for such an increase in diplomatic exchanges between Iran and Syria? How the new Iranian administration has performed with regard to the ongoing crisis in Syria? What will happen to the plan proposed by the United Nations’ Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura? In the following interview, Hassan Royvaran, a professor at the University of Tehran and analyst of regional issues, believes that Syria and Iraq are past the stage where they could be defeated by terrorists and now all political players are talking about what happens when the ongoing conflicts end. The complete text of his interview follows.
Q: What is your opinion about performance and approach taken by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs toward the situation in Syria under Iran’s new administration?
A: In my opinion, the new Iranian administration does believe that Syria crisis cannot be solely solved through security and military approaches. Although containing Takfiri terrorist forces is a necessity, the Iranian administration is of the opinion that encouraging public participation and the role of popular groups in the political process in Syria, in addition to steps taken by the Syrian government to enter into talks with the unarmed opposition groups are totally imperative. In better words, Iran believes that in parallel to security solutions, there should be a political solution as well. For this reason, both Iran and Russia have been making extensive efforts since two months ago in order to find a negotiated solution to Syria crisis. Such a solution should pave the way for talks between Syrian government and the opposition and allow for the assimilation of unarmed opposition in the official structure, which will boost national consensus in Syria and help the government go through the current stage of armed conflict with Takfiri groups.
Q: You talked about extensive efforts by Iran and Russia to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Therefore, why some people still claim that the Iranian government has no clear strategy toward the Syrian crisis save for trying to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power?
A: First of all, it should be noted that Iran is not without a strategy toward Syria because any form of insecurity in Syria and Iraq would pose a threat to Iran’s national security as well. For this reason, Iran can under no circumstances remain indifferent toward what is going on in Syria and Iraq. As for Syria, the fact that some people believe that Iran does not have a well-defined strategy toward this country and is just trying to keep the existing ruling system and Bashar Assad in power, is in conflict with many realities on the ground. Among those realities is the activities that have been undertaken by both Iran and Russia at the present time to come up with a political solution to help Syria go through its current crisis and boost the role of unarmed opposition in future political process of the country. Iran is not just trying to keep Bashar Assad in power. Of course, keeping Bashar Assad in office is a necessity because he has won a free presidential election which was held after amendments were made to the country’s constitution. On the other hand, without Bashar Assad, there would be a high possibility that Syria would move toward full-blown civil war and fall apart. Therefore, the continued presence of Bashar Assad in power is a symbol of national unity in the country.
Q: The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has so far made a number of trips to Iran and other influential regional countries. How do you assess De Mistura’s success in this regard?
A: The efforts made and the proposal offered by De Mistura on the Syrian city of Aleppo, which calls for a freeze on the conflict in the city and establishment of a freeze zones in Aleppo as a model to be later extended to other parts of Syria, have not been successful so far. Of course, Mr. De Mistura is moving in the same direction that Iran and Russia have been moving up to the present time, but his proposal for a cease-fire in Aleppo and establishment of a no-conflict zone in the city has not been able to bear any fruit thus far. At the present time the city of Aleppo is under almost full siege of the Syrian army. The Syrian troops have surrounded the city on all sides except for an area not more than one kilometer wide, which is also under direct fire of government troops. Therefore under new conditions in the region and the country, De Mistura’s proposal is well-nigh impractical.
Q: Apart from this issue, do you really think that other efforts made by De Mistura will bear fruit or face the same fate as the proposal for Aleppo?
A: So far, three diplomats have been assigned as the UN special envoy for Syria by the world body’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The first envoy was Kofi Annan, with Lakhdar Brahimi being the second one who was succeeded by the current envoy, Mr. Staffan de Mistura. It should be noted that the proposals so far offered by the United Nations and other international organizations on the Syria crisis show that they lack enough understanding of this crisis. In other words, since the United Nations is under influence and pressure of big international powers, its performance with regard to various issues is different. Also, given the fact that the United States and the West in general are totally at loggerheads with the current political system in Syria, we should not expect the UN envoys to be positive toward all political groups that are involved in the country’s political crisis. Therefore, we cannot have high hopes about the success of the UN envoys for Syria.
Q: During the past month, we have witnessed a spate of diplomatic exchanges between high-ranking officials of Iran and Syria. What is the reason behind increased exchange of diplomatic visits?
A: At present, the government of Iraq is almost close to ending the war with terrorists. Naturally, Syria will be also in better conditions to get rid of terrorists as well. Therefore, it is necessary to provide needed political grounds for the time that the ISIS terrorist group and other Takfiri groups have been defeated. Most of the talks between the two countries’ officials also revolves around this issue. The conditions in Syria are such that the possibility of overthrowing the ruling system is totally out of the questions and final defeat of Takfiri terrorist forces is now an option. This is why all political players are engaged in negotiations about what happens after the terrorists are defeated.
Q: Can you explain more about the future developments after Takfiri terrorist groups are defeated?
A: The current conflicts in two Arab countries have been the result of a plot against Syria and then Iraq in order to deal drastic blows to resistance front in the region. Therefore, the victories gained by the Iraqi government in many regions of the country and also the fact that the government of Syria is past the stage when it could be overthrown, mean that the resistance movement is in a good position to score new victories. One of the reasons why Saudi Arabia is waging an oil price war is the evident triumph of the resistance front in Iraq and Syria, which can further strengthen that front. Therefore, by waging a war over global oil prices, Saudi Arabia is trying to usher Iran in a new phase of economic crisis, so that, the victories of the resistance movement will not have serious consequences for Riyadh. However, due to sanctions already imposed on the country and by following the model of resistance economy, Iran is currently in a state that has reduced its dependence on oil prices to a minimum. Therefore the chances that this new conspiracy will be able to deal a serious blow to the resistance front are minimal.