A senior Iranian lawmaker has called on his government to display greater
openness regarding Syria, saying that Iranians are entitled to know why Iran
considers Bashar Assad’s regime to be of strategic importance, a local
conservative news website reported Monday.
Popular conservative news site
Tabnak said that Ahmad Reza Dastgheib, deputy head of Iran’s Majlis Committee of
National Security and Foreign Policy, has called on Iranian officials to “speak
with transparency” about the country’s position on Syria.
under the direction of Mohsen Rezai, secretary-general of the Expediency Council
and former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. who launched the
site – previously known as Baztab – in 2002 in response to a growth in reformist
The site is a popular news source and considered
“People have the right to know why Syria is important for Iran
and what our interests in that country are,” Dastgheib said, according to
Tabnak. “All these cases, consequences and different conditions must be
explained to the people.”
Iran, whose dominant faith is Twelver Shia
Islam, is Assad’s closest regional ally. Assad and many dominant figures in his
regime are Alawite Muslims, a sect that follows a branch of the Twelver school
of Shia Islam.
Syria is important to Iran for many reasons, including the
fact that it allows Iran to extend its influence in the region to the border
Dastgheib also said Iran did not speak frankly to the
Iranian people on various issues, calling this a “major failing,” Tabnak
“Although our system is a popular system, sometimes we forget that
these people are the regime’s backbone,” he said.
The Iranian lawmaker
also said the country must do all it can to prevent the fall of Bashar Assad’s
“We should make all our efforts to prevent the Syrian government
from falling,” Dastgheib said, adding that even if Assad’s regime is toppled,
Iran would not lose all its strategic positions in the region.
said that Syria is linked to Iranian interests because of its strategic
situation, which required the Islamic Republic to conduct an “active diplomacy”
with Assad’s regime.
The lawmaker added that the conditions in Syria were
such that “a single country must stand against many countries.”
case, Syria should not fall, but if that happens then we must come up with
different strategies to maintain our strategic position in Syria, that is, an
alternative diplomatic system must also be anticipated,” he said.
Eldad Pardo, an expert on Iranian politics and foreign policy at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, said that Iran has not told people the truth about its
role in Syria, because the Iranian regime is responsible for the massacre of
innocent people in that country.
From the start of the Syrian uprising
last year, Iran has tried to export to Syria the same repressive techniques it
used against its own people during the uprisings after the allegedly rigged 2009
elections and again during 2011, Pardo said.
Iran has been involved in
Syria via its Lebanese Shi’ite proxy, Hezbollah, which has publicly expressed
support for Syrian president Bashar Assad’s regime, but has so far denied
In May, Iran admitted sending its elite Quds Force to
“Iran has brought death to its allies, the same as it did in
Iraq,” Pardo said, adding that since 1979, the Islamic Republic has been
involved in wars in the Middle East which have resulted in Arab deaths,
including the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Now, thanks to a combination of
sanctions and Iran’s own economic policies, there is increasing pressure on Iran
for the Islamic Republic to change its strategies, which Dastgheib alluded to,
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was supposed to advance both
religious and democratic values, and many in Iran believe that the current
religious dictatorship has betrayed the revolution.
There is also an
ongoing debate in Iran after the Arab Spring, which sought to bring greater
democracy to Arab states.
“Even inside the regime, there are voices of
dissent who say the country needs to present alternatives,” said Pardo, who
noted that the regime remains afraid of transparency and openness.
presents a “major challenge” for the Iranian regime, he added, calling it a
“double burden” for Iran.
If Iran loses its Syrian ally, it will lose its
access to the Mediterranean, and also its strategy of creating an axis of
influence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
However, Pardo said that many in
Iran still believe they can salvage Assad’s regime, overcome the sanctions and
also emerge as a nuclear power.
“The real solution in Iran would be
internal reform,” he concluded.
Also on Monday, Tabnak dismissed as
“rumors and allegations” Western media reports that 48 Iranians captured by
Syrian rebels are members of the Revolutionary Guards.
Iran has said
those kidnapped are Iranian pilgrims and, according to official news agency,
IRNA has urged Qatar and Turkey to help release the hostages.
quoted another senior Iranian lawmaker, Esmail Kowsari, as saying the kidnapping
of Iranians was part of an initiative by the US and Israel to stir dissent and
chaos in Syria.
Later on Monday, IRNA reported that Iran plans to host a
meeting – this week – of regional and other countries that have “realistic
stances” on Syria, in order to find ways to resolve the country’s
“A consultation meeting on Syria will be held in Tehran on
Thursday with the participation of those countries who have ... realistic
stances on this country,” IRNA quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein
Amir-Abdollahian as saying.
The aim of the meeting is to find “ways out
of the current crisis, the return of stability and calm to that country and also
supporting all constructive regional and international efforts,” Abdollahian
The report did not say which countries were invited to the meeting
but, because of their involvement in the Syrian crisis, any meeting held without
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey is unlikely to have any significant
Reuters contributed to this report.