Iran convenes conference on Syria, vowing to preserve the 'axis of resistance'
Iran, largely isolated from the West and a steadfast ally of Syria's President Assad, has a lot to lose if the regime in Damascus falls.
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Latin America Editor
Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.
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After numerous failed diplomatic attempts by the United Nations to rein in the violence in Syria, Syrian ally Iran offered up its own solution: a conference of nations with “a correct and realistic position” on resolving the civil war.
The fall of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad could have destabilizing consequences for the region and Iran, a longtime ally that has largely isolated itself from the West. Iran’s visiting head of national security, Saeed Jalili, said on Aug. 7 that “Iran will not tolerate, in any form, the breaking of the axis of the resistance, of which Syria is an intrinsic part.”
Iranian officials traveled to Syria this week after rebels kidnapped 48 Iranians. Tehran insists the captured men were religious pilgrims, but the rebels who took responsibility for the kidnapping have said they are members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, wrote in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post yesterday that “Iran seeks a solution that is in the interest of everyone. Syrian society is a beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, faiths and cultures, and it will be smashed to pieces should President Bashar al-Assad abruptly fall. The idea that, in that event, there would be an orderly transition of power is an illusion.”
However, Western diplomats say the conference in Iran was created to not only preserve Mr. Assad’s rule in Syria, but shift the world’s attention away from the ongoing bloodshed there.
An estimated 17,000 people have been killed in Syria since fighting broke out in March 2011, according to the United Nations. Today Syrian forces shelled Aleppo, the country’s largest city and commercial hub, and a battleground between regime forces and rebels for nearly a month now. Rebels say neighborhoods were targeted by helicopter fire, reports CNN. The protracted violence has shaken Assad’s hold on the country as diplomats, members of the military, and, most recently, the prime minister have defected.
Amid reports that a ground assault in Aleppo has forced rebels to retreat as ammunition and supplies are running low, The New York Times reports residents received “ominous cellphone text messages asking them to cooperate with the government. One text, signed by the Syrian Army, read: ‘Dear brothers, informing about terrorists means you are saving yourself and your family.’” The regime often refers to rebel fighters as terrorists.