Why the West Opposes Annan Plan for Syria?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interview with Hossein Sheikholeslam
Iran’s Former Ambassador to Damascus

A recent visit to Iran by special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, Kofi Annan, in early July and the following announcement by Tehran that it is ready to mediate and host a meeting between the Syrian government and opposition were major turning points in Iran’s role in solving the ongoing Syrian crisis. The opposition of the West and especially the Americans to any role to be played by Tehran in any decision taken on Syria is just one flip side of the coin. Although the first leap of the Western countries for getting the Security Council pass a resolution against Syria was proved ineffective after Russia threatened to veto that resolution, this did not bar the Western states from working out new plans against the crisis-hit country. What will happen to Syria? This question has been frequently asked in public circles by people. In the following interview with Iran’s former ambassador to Syria, Hossein Sheikholeslam, we have tried to find an answer to this question. The text of the interview follows.

Q: What is the root cause of the Syrian crisis? Why it is difficult to imagine a bright future outlook for the situation in Syria?

A: As soon as the crisis in Syria began, the country’s President Bashar al-Assad did his best effort to introduce new reforms in the country. Stopping violence by the armed forces, changing the country’s age-old constitution and putting an end to the emergency state law which ruled the country for 40 years were highlights of his reforms. These changes were followed by the participation of about 60 percent of Syrian eligible voters in a subsequent election [for the parliament]. Although the election turnout did not mean that Assad enjoys 100-percent support of the Syrian people, it was a good sign that they are, at least, opposed to the violence and willing to put a stop to it. Therefore, under present circumstances, the Syrian government has been able to become more stable and in view of the ongoing reforms, its status among the Syrian people has been raised. On the opposite, however, their opposition groups have established contacts with other countries and received financial aid from countries opposing Assad who have armed them to carry out terrorist operations. The Syrian government has been able to prove this. Therefore, the position of the Syrian opposition has declined from those who pursue legitimate demands to terrorists supported by foreign elements.

Q: Regardless of its result, which invoked various reactions from different parties to the talks, the recent Geneva meeting on Syria can be considered a turning point in the course of the Syrian crisis. What happened behind the scenes in Geneva and what is your viewpoint?

A: The Geneva meeting was held after the West came to grips with the reality and found out that there is no military solution to crisis in Syria. They have understood that civil disobedience is not an effective means for toppling Bashar Assad. Therefore, they have opted for negotiations. In fact, Geneva meeting confirmed that the West cannot do the same to Syria as it had already done to Libya. On the other hand, Russia and China believe that the Syrian nation should play a crucial part in determining the quality of the next government. As a result, the West, on the one side, and Russia and China, on the other side, have their own problems with Kofi Annan’s plan on Syria. Russia is willing for the plan to be implemented and for the UN observer mission to continue its work in Syria. Therefore, the country has proposed another draft resolution based on which the presence of international observers in Syria will be extended for 90 more days and no new sanctions will be imposed on Syria. On the contrary, the West is trying to deal with the Syrian crisis under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. For this reason, Western countries are against extension of the UN observer mission in Syria in order to make Russia accept West’s position on Syria.

Q: It seems that the Western countries are not supporting Annan’s plan although they have not clearly rejected it too.

A: The West introduced Annan into the Syrian equation in order to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis instead of a military one. Therefore, Annan plan was, in fact, a security plan. When the implementation of his plan and the mission of the UN observers started, it became quite clear that the Syrian government is not responsible for all domestic violence in the country. The West and the Arab League did not want to shatter the false image that they had already offered of the violent behavior of the Syrian government through international media. Therefore, they indicated their disagreement with the continuation of Annan’s plan because presence of observers in Syria was part of that plan. The West is also trying to prevent further extension of the observer mission’s deadline in Syria.

Q: Will Annan’s plan finally facilitate the fall of the political power in Syria and make Bashar Assad step down?

A: The most salient feature of Annan’s plan is its insistence on the role of observers in political mediation in the country which is in line with Russia’s proposed resolution. On the other hand, the West which has not been able to topple Assad through military intervention is now trying to make recourse to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in order to achieve its goal.

Q: Have there been any fluctuations in Iran’s position on the situation in Syria?

A: Iran’s policy toward the government in Syria is based on the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has specified that nations should have the right to determine their own fate. Iran, along with Russia and China, have so far powerfully prevented foreign intervention in Syria and have worked to reduce the intensity of the crisis and fight armed terrorist groups in order to prevent more bloodshed. From the beginning of the unrest in Syria, Iran proved that it is a very effective player in that country. From the very outset, all countries in international community had given in to the US and European countries’ plan and had voted for the US plans against Syria in international organizations. Iran, however, despite all the support that big powers lent to US plans in the Security Council, announced that it opposes a country’s fate to be determined outside its borders. It was then that Russia and China actively entered the game and caused all plans hatched by the United States and European countries to fail through their double vetoes.

Q: One of the hallmarks of Syria’s crisis is opposition of the United States and the West to any solution which would enable Iran to play a role. The important thing that has happened now is the cold reaction shown to Annan’s Iran visit by the Western countries. What is Annan actually looking for Iran and why Iran supports Annan’s plan?

A: The main reason behind Iran’s support for Kofi Annan’s plan is the first paragraph of that plan which puts emphasis on the need to immediately stop all kinds of violence in Syria. As for the rest of the plan, Iran has announced that it will support those parts which are in line with its general policies. Therefore, Iran and its highest level of decision-making gave the message to Syria that the violence should be stopped and basic reforms should be initiated and implemented. At present, Iran is still supporting an end to the violence and beginning of talks between the two sides of the conflict. In view of Annan’s two visits to Tehran, one may conclude that implementing Iran’s policies in Syria is a priority for us. He came to Tehran to acquire Iran’s full support for his plan. In the meantime, it is very important for us to prevent any decision being made for Syria and its people from abroad, either by Assad’s opposition or his supporters. The final outcome of Annan’s visit to Tehran shall be the same solution on which the Islamic Republic of Iran insists; that is dialogue and negotiation between the two sides.

Q: Another turning point which occurred during the past few days was official announcement by Iran of its readiness to host a meeting between the government of Assad and his opposition. Considering that the Syrian opposition lacks a solid organization or even readiness to engage in talks, why Iran came up with such a proposal for negotiations?

A: Since Iran has indicated its readiness to provide necessary conditions for negotiation between Syrian opposition and government, it is quite clear that such negotiation will lead to resolution of tension between Syrian opposition and government while helping them to achieve their national goals. Iran is a country which can be trusted by both sides of the conflict, but since the opposition groups take orders from abroad, they are not wiling for security to be restored in the country. Tehran opposes West’s efforts to topple the Syrian government and says it is only for the Syrian nation to make the final decision on the fate of the country.

Therefore, Iran believe that it is duty-bound to provide suitable conditions for talks between the two sides in order to enable them to reach a common and feasible conclusion in a logical atmosphere away from the West’s meddling.

Q: Is Iran’s new position on Syria a kind of tactical change with regard to the situation in that country?

A: No, this is not true. From the very beginning, Tehran announced at its highest level of decision-making that it is opposed to the organized crime which is being fostered by the Western countries in Syria. The call to talks is also in line with Iran’s peaceful effort to end the Syrian crisis.

Key Words: Annan Plan for Syria, Assad's New Reforms, Terrorist Operations, Geneva Meeting, Iran’s Position on Syria, Tactical Change, US Plans, Sheikholeslam

Source: Tehran Emrooz Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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