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After causing a stir by going against the official line and blaming the Syrian Government for the August 21 chemical weapons attacks outside Damascus, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani appears to have now taken a step back from that position.

Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, writes on Tuesday that Rafsanjani told a meeting of the Expediency Council that Tehran’s support for Syria must continue — as well as support for Lebanon — because “these countries are at the front line of resistance against Israel”.

According to Fars, Rafsanjani now casts suspicion over Washington’s reaction to the August 21 attacks, noting that: “America had prepared everything earlier and they themselves announced that they knew three days earlier that chemical materials were to be used.”

The U.S. was trying to create “sedition” in the region by going to war, he added, even though “Syria is not America’s problem, and the Middle East is the important matter for the West.”

While refraining from issuing any specific threats against the U.S. or Israel, Rafsanjani does echo other voices in Iran — notably the Revolutionary Guards — when he warns that “all diplomatic capacities must be used, because if the region heads toward war, all of it will burn in this war’s fire.”

So can we consider these remarks to be a complete retraction?

What is notable, however, is that Rafsanjani — at least according to Fars — does not change tack entirely and blame the insurgency for the chemical attacks. Instead, he offers this explanation: “It could be that individuals have penetrated the Syrian Army and they carried out these measures.”

Whether this is a refusal to completely retract his earlier accusations, a face-saving measure, or merely Fars News spin is unclear.

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Anonymous Source Tells Fars: Quds Force Commander Pledged Undying Support For Assad

Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, continues to push the line that Iran will stand by Syrian President Assad, getting the message out this time via Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

Notably, Fars does not quote Soleimani directly, but has an unnamed “member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts” cite him as saying: “We will support Syria to the end.”

The anonymous source, who either has a photographic memory or took copious notes, went on to say that Soleimani added the following paragraph:

“Soleimani, who was addressing an Experts Assembly meeting, further referred to the different means and methods applied by the US for toppling President Bashar al-Assad’s government, including political pressures and dispatch of Al-Qaeda forces to Syria, and expressed the confidence that Washington’s latest excuse for attacking Syria (i.e. the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Damascus government) would fail to produce any result for Washington.”

But wait — the source has more. He tells Fars that the real problem over Syria is not actually Syria at all. In the first place, the Syrian conflict doesn’t exist, since “95% of those rebels fighting in Syria are foreigners…and that the remaining rebels are Syrian army defectors and Salafi Syrians.”

The real story in Syria, however, is — you guessed it — Iran. The anonymous source told Fars that Soleimani said the real issue is not Syria at all, but “certain regional states’ fear of Iran’s growing influence in the region… for instance Qatar has spent $12bln in the form of aids to the rebel groups in Syria in a bid to reverse the current trend which is moving in the interest of the Syrian government, but it has failed and Iran still enjoys a good position among the regional countries.”

Rouhani: We’re Ready For Serious, Substantial Nuclear Talks

Rouhani has tweeted about the appointment of a new nuclear negotiating team, saying that Tehran is serious about pursuing nuclear talks with the West.

Forget Syria, Think Saffron

While much of the Iranian media is still preoccupied with the Syria crisis, Fars News offers readers an economic success story — Iran’s saffron exports topped $53.5 million over the last five months.

Fars is proud to report that Iran has exported a total sum of 39,557 kg of saffron, mostly to Spain, France, Germany, China, Turkey and Oman.

However, a glance at past export figures for saffron put Fars’s apparent good news story into perspective. In 2005, Iran exported a total of 230,000 kg of saffron. If current export trends continue, Iran is set to export just under 95,000 kg of saffron this Persian year.

Nevertheless, Fars is not downcast, noting that: Due to its diverse climate and fertile soil, Iran’s agriculture products are rated among the best in the world with its saffron standing second to none.