LATEST: Reformist Paper Publishes US Article “Iran Doesn’t Need Assad”
More than a week after he stirred Iranian opinion with the declaration that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani pulled back on Saturday: he told war veterans, “Recent quotes [attributed] to me regarding Syria…are absolutely not true.”
Rafsanjani told an audience on August 29, “The Syrian people who were the target of a chemical attack by the authorities must now face the threat of foreign intervention.”
A leading Iranian news agency published the statement but soon withdrew it. When it reappeared, the key words “by the authorities” had disappeared.
Even so, the former President’s statement caused a stir inside the Islamic Republic, with many politicians calling for him to retract the remarks.
Iranian media were quick to feature Rafsanjani’s denial. Fars News, pressing the Rouhani Government to take the “right” line on Syria, dresses up the former President’s statement, “Recently a quote from me about Syria has provided a pretext for new misuses and machinations by such (western) media, which was not at all right and correct from the beginning.”
Press TV adds this extract:
Unfortunately Syrians, who have been struggling for about two years with civil war, all kinds of suffering and extraordinary displacement, are now also under foreign [military] threats because of unproven allegations of chemical weapons use.
The question remains: is Rafsanjani now accepting the hard-line of regime factions, especially the Revolutionary Guards, on Syria?
Or did he pull back because he had succeeded — with his initial statement — in casting doubt on unconditional support for President Assad?
Is this another signal of a break by some within the regime from unbending support of Damascus? The reformist paper Shargh has translated and re-printed an article by Sune Engel Rasmussen in The Atlantic, “No, Iran Doesn’t Need Assad“:
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Iran’s support for Bashar al-Assad is neither unconditional nor everlasting. Despite having assisted the Assad regime from the beginning of the conflict with weapons and personnel, the war in Syria has not strengthened Iran, which likely wants to get out of the Syrian quagmire as soon as possible — if it can do so with some influence in Syria intact.
The piece concludes with a call for Washington to include Tehran in discussions of the Syrian conflict:
By bringing Iran in, the West could give Rouhani an early success in his presidency and help bolster his moderate discourse. An escalation of the conflict, on the other hand, would boost militant hardliners in Tehran and corner Rouhani with less room for diplomatic maneuvers.
The Central Bank has announced that the inflation rate was 39% for the year ending on August 22.
In July, the annual rate was 33.9%.
Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf has been re-elected to a third four-year term as mayor of Tehran.
Qalibaf, who finished second in June’s Preisdential election, withstood the challenge of Mohsen Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.