PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has maintained that Syria’s President Assad can retain power in a political solution for the country’s five-year conflict.
Zarif responded on Saturday to comments by both US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that Assad must give up power in a political transition.
He told reporters at the Munich Security Conference:
A political solution will be possible with Assad. Neither we nor they [Saudi Arabia and the US] can make a comment in this regard.
A decision about the future of Syria must be taken by the Syrian nation. People have the right to express their views and this decision only rests with the Syrians.
Iran has been an essential ally of Assad throughout the Syrian conflict, providing economic and military support. Since October, Tehran has put in more commanders and troops as part of ground offensives, enabled by Russian bombing, against Syria’s rebels.
Kerry told the Syrian opposition Orient TV, “There will never be peace in Syria if Assad is there.” He said the President should announce that he is not running for re-election.
Jubeir said in interviews with US and German media, “I believe Bashar al-Assad is weak and I believe Bashar al-Assad is finished.”
“Saudi Intervention in Syria is Strategic Mistake”
The Supreme Leader’s military advisor has repeated Iran’s condemnation of possible Saudi military intervention in Syria.
“The Saudi government, given its heavy defeats in the region in recent years, may make such a move and commit a strategic mistake,” General Yadollah Javani said on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia said earlier this month that it will send ground troops into Syria if requested by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.
This weekend the Turkish Foreign Minister has confirmed the deployment of Saudi warplanes and troops at the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey.
Javani said the deployment will lead to a “miscalculation” which could cost the Saudi regime dearly.
He added, “It is obvious for Syrians that terrorist groups are supported by regional and extra-regional countries including Saudi Arabia.”
US Maintains Sanctions on Banks
The US Government has confirmed that it is maintaining sanctions on the banking sector over Iranian business, despite implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal.
“Broadly, the US primary embargo on Iran is still in place,” John Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), told a Congressional panel on Thursday.
The sanctions remain because they were imposed over alleged Iranian support of terrorism and abuse of human rights. American banks cannot handle transactions for companies involved in Iran, and the Iranian regime and private entities cannot open accounts.
An official with one large New York bank said implementation of the nuclear deal, confirmed last month, “does not have any impact on us. We’re still very prohibited from engaging in just about any business activity with Iran except on very limited exceptions.”
Foreign banks operating in the US are also affected, because they are forbidden from clearing US dollar-denominated transactions involving Iran through American banks.
Non-US companies who provide support to blacklisted Iranian entities can be cut off from the US financial system or prosecuted. In 2014, BNP Paribas was fined almost $9 billion for moving payments involving Iranian entities through the US economy.