Iran has sent another high-level official to meet Syria’s President Assad, following this week’s political talks and the declaration of a Russian-Turkish-Iranian ceasefire which is not being observed by the Assad regime.
Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the special assistant to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, saw Assad on Thursday. No details were given of the discussion beyond the declaration that both men supported Tuesday’s declaration of cessation of hostilities.
Neither referred to the ongoing Hezbollah-regime offensive on the Wadi Barada area northwest of Damascus.
The offensive was launched on December 22 against the area of 10 villages, strategic because of the al-Fija springs that provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Regime airstrikes have damaged the pumping station for the springs, cutting off supplies to more than 5 million people in and near the capital.
Despite a Russian-Turkish proclamation of a national ceasefire on December 30, the offensive continued. President Assad said attacks would not be halted until all “terrorists” were cleared from Wadi Barada, which has between 50,000 and 100,000 people.
Hezbollah and the regime have maintained the assault following Tuesday’s Russian-Iranian-Turkish statement at the talks in Kazakhstan, which included regime and opposition-rebel delegations. Residents reported near-constant mortar fire, and pro-opposition activists said the attacks included more than 40 barrel bombs on Thursday.
Abdollahian’s trip, including a discussion with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, is the latest Iranian mission to Syria amid Russian and Turkish maneuvers for a ceasefire and political talks. Assad met top MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi on January 4 and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, on January 8.
Iran has maintained a firmer line than Russia, the Assad regime’s other essential ally, over the future of Assad and his desire to defeat the opposition and rebels across Syria. Tehran has said that the President’s position is a “red line” which cannot be crossed.
Iran has also held firm against any partition of the country, despite indications that Russia and Turkey — which has backed the oppositon and rebels since the 2011 uprising — may be discussing the possibility.