As Tehran urges the Assad government and the opposition to open peace talks, Paul Rogers, ORG's Global Security Consultant, discusses Iran's role in the Syrian conflict on Aljazeera's Inside Syria programme (presented by David Foster) on 12 August 2012. Paul Rogers, who is also Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, is joined by Khalid Saleh, a Member of the Syrian National Council Executive Office, and Seyed Mohammad Marandi, the Head of North American Studies at the University of Tehran.
The below video and text are reproduced from the Aljazeera website:
The Iranians would basically like the Assad regime to stay in power, but they recognise the 'realpolitik' that the rebels are getting more and more support from outside (...) If the Iranians cannot ensure that [Assad stays in power], they must play a second card and that is indeed to try and ensure they have role in the transition to whatever will follow the Assad regime.
Prof Paul Rogers, ORG's Global Security Consultant
While civilians and opposition fighters in Aleppo faced the most serious and sustained shelling and some contend the main battle for Syria's second city is well underway, Iran hosted a summit on Thursday to try to end the fighting.
Attended by 30 countries, including China and Russia, it was meant to provide an alternative to international meetings hosted by the western-led Friends of Syria.
Proposing a potential ceasefire, Tehran said that some of Syria's opposition groups were ready to take part in a meeting with the Syrian government without preconditions.
Iran and the West agree that the fighting in Syria must stop. But they disagree on one major issue: Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.
Syria's main opposition group says there will be no talks while al-Assad is in power and public statements coming from the US support that position, but Iran says all sides must talk.
Tehran has always been an ally of Syria and has maintained close relations with al-Assad.
Meanwhile, the US is putting more pressure on Syria. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is in Turkey for talks on Syria. She says discussions have focused on humanitarian relief and bringing about a political transition in the country.
Precious few details have come out of these talks, but it seems that Iran is now taking a much more public role in Syria’s future than at any time during this nearly 18-month long conflict.
So does Iran hold the master key for the Syrian crisis?
The Iranians from the start felt they were taking the moral high ground and saying the Assad government needs to carry out serious and real reforms in a peaceful atmosphere, but the Iranians felt the western countries did not want this.
When the Arab League inspectors went to Syria, the Arab League and the west supported it initially, but when their statements ran contrary to what was being said in the western media and the propaganda that we saw – suddenly they were demonised. And as soon as the Annan plan came out and the idea of a ceasefire was put forth then we also immediately saw formal support for militants in Syria with western support.
So Iran has felt from the start that western countries are out to overthrow the Assad government.
Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Head of North American Studies, University of Tehran