Western sources speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat have said Iran may participate in the forthcoming peace conference on the Syrian civil war following President Hassan Rouhani’s positive speech at the UN General-Assembly.
The sources said Tehran has “returned to the international political arena” through Rouhani’s moderate discourse. They said, however, that Iran needed to overcome a number of obstacles before it can join the talks in Geneva.
Among the obstacles is that Iran must accept that the aim of the conference, dubbed “Geneva II,” is to establish a transitional government in Syria with full executive powers, including control of the military and intelligence services. The sources said that if Washington and its Western allies accepted that President Bashar Al-Assad could remain in office, then he would be staying “without any powers.”
The Iranians “have accepted Assad’s departure,” said the sources. However, Iranian officials who held meetings in New York last week, including Rouhani’s meeting with French President François Hollande, “have not made any clear commitments” on the issue yet.
The Iranian government has not yet announced its acceptance of the original Geneva declaration of 2012, which called for a transitional government in Syria. French sources were reported to have said the reason for Iran’s apparent reluctance to accept the 2012 declaration was the fact it was excluded from its meetings.
The sources added that the Iranian position towards the Syrian regime has changed after the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta District on August 21. They sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Assad had “lost much of his credibility” with Iran, which was attacked with chemical weapons during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
Sources suggest that the change in Iran’s position could help improve its relations with the West, and may also “affect the role of Hezbollah in Syria,” because, French sources said, Hezbollah “received its orders from Tehran, not Damascus.”
In another development, the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria claimed to have collected eye-witness testimony of the discovery of two mass graves where bodies of members of the opposition were buried after being tortured to death by government forces.
The chairman of the Syrian Association for the Defense of Human Rights, Abdelkarim Al-Rihawi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there were five new mass graves in the suburbs of Homs, in addition to others in Damascus. Rihawi demanded that “the dossier of the violations of human rights in Syria should be referred to the Security Council and the International Criminal Court.”