Ahmadinejad urges Syria to rein in crackdown

International community has given Assad a ‘license to kill,’ says former head of IDF intel Yadlin.

By OREN KESSLER
September 8, 2011 23:30
3 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)

Syrian President Bashar Assad should restrain his violent crackdown on Syrian protesters and enter talks with the opposition, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.

“There should be talks” between the Syrian government and its opponents, Ahmadinejad told Portuguese media in an interview in Tehran, according to AP. “A military solution is never the right solution.”

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“We believe that freedom and justice and respect for others are the rights of all nations. All governments have to recognize these rights,” he said. “Problems have to be dealt with through dialogue."

“Other countries in the region can help the Syrian government and people to talk to each other with a view to resolving their differences and introducing the reforms that are needed,” Ahmadinejad said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said last month that Assad should answer the legitimate demands of his people.

Iran, the Syrian regime’s foremost ally, has blamed the US and Israel for the unrest, while Washington has accused Iran of helping Assad crush the popular revolt.

Syrian forces backed by tanks killed at least 20 civilians in the city of Homs on Wednesday, in one of the fiercest military assaults on urban centers to crush six months of pro-democracy protests, activists and residents said. Residents said the assault concentrated on old districts that have seen daily street demonstrations demanding Assad’s removal.

It came as the Arab League said that its secretary general will visit Syria on Saturday and Arab foreign ministers will meet next week to convey concerns over the crackdown.

Meanwhile, the former head of Israeli military intelligence said that the UN – in failing to impose the kind of tough measures that helped oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – had effectively given Assad a “license to kill.”

“Unfortunately, Bashar got a ‘license to kill,’” Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Yadlin told Ben Birnbaum of the Washington Times. “Not formal, not explicit, but he understood that unlike Libya, there will not be a Security Council resolution because Russia will protect him.”

“He understood that the Arab League is not willing to ask America or NATO to attack him, so he is basically immune from international intervention, which means he can do what Gaddafi was not allowed to do.” Yadlin also noted that unlike the Libyan ex-leader, Assad retains the loyalty of the bulk of his military.

Yadlin, now a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, co-wrote a policy paper in May arguing that would be a favorable outcome for Israel despite uncertainty about over who might replace him.

“At that time, I was a lone voice,” Yadlin said. “I think by now, many in Israel and [the US] understand that it will probably be better if he goes.” Yadlin said Assad is most threatened by Syria’s ailing economy, but added that Iran has the resources to prevent its ally from economic collapse.

“If the Iranians take care of it and write him a check for $5 billion a year, he is safe,” Yadlin said of the Syrian president.

The former spymaster said that with a resurgent Iran helping Hezbollah, the extremist group is unlikely to be significantly affected in the event of Assad’s ouster.

“It used to be Syria controlling Hezbollah and Iran helping. Now it’s Iran using Syria as a corridor – as a pipe, as an agent – to help Hezbollah,” Yadlin said. “So instead of sending weapons through Damascus International Airport, they will do it through Turkey or through the Mediterranean. It’s less convenient, but it won’t dry Hezbollah.”


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