PHOTO: Syria’ President Assad and the Supreme Leader in Tehran (File Photo)
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has reaffirmed Iran’s support of the Assad regime in Syria, in the midst of rebel advances, growing economic problems, and rumors of Tehran despatching thousands of troops to the country.
Amir-Abdollahian told reporters on Tuesday that there has been no change in Iranian policy. He said this was “not for tactical interests”, with Iranian-Syrian ties being of “a strategic nature”.
The Minister said, “Assad plays a significant role in fighting terrorism and [strengthening] Syria’s national unity, and the Syrian army and people have delivered a firm response to terrorism.”
However, Amir-Abdollahian implicitly dismissed last week’s rumors that Iran is sending thousands of its personnel and Iraqi and Afghan fighters into Syria. He said a military approach would be a “strategic mistake” and violate the Syrian people’s rights.
The head of Iran’s elite Qods Force, General Qassem Soleimani, recently conferred with Syrian political and military commanders in Latakia Province in western Syria and in Damascus, following the rebel sweep through Idlib Province in the northwest and other opposition victories in the south.
An Iranian paramilitary group, Ansar-e Hezbollah, then stirred rumors with a report calling for 50,000 Iranian personnel to prop up Assad. Arab media picked up the recommendation as fact, and Hezbollah’s al-Manar outlet spread a claim of 20,000 intervening troops. An official of the Assad regime subsequently said 7,000 fighters had arrived to defend Damascus and retake territory in northwest Syria; however, there has been no evidence so far of the intervention.
Amir-Abdollahian also did not refer to the status of Syria’s request for another $4 billion line of credit from the Islamic Republic, with a $3.6 billion line from 2013 soon to expire. Iran has reportedly offer no more than $1 billion.
Television Producer Given 8-Year Prison Sentence
Television producer Mostafa Azizi, arrested in February, has been given an eight-year prison sentence.
Azizi, who lives in Canada, had returned to Iran in January to visit friends and relatives. He was charged with assembly and collusion against national security, actions against national security, and insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic.
Azizi reportedly spent one month in solitary confinement in the Revolutionary Guards Ward of Evin Prison. He was sentenced by Judge Abolghassem Solavati, known for his dispensation of lengthy prison terms.
Azizi started as a writer and producer of science and educational programs for Iran’s national radio in 1986. Four years later, he moved to the national television broadcaster IRIB, working on animation and other productions.