NCRI website: A webinar took place on Monday, March 28, 2016 entitled “Iran regime operating full force to derail Syrian ceasefire.” Brigadier General Assad Al Zubi of the Free Syrian Army and head of the Syrian opposition delegation in the Geneva negotiations; Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Hajj, an advisor at the Syrian National Council; and Dr. Sanabargh Zahedi, the head of the judiciary committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) participated in this webinar.
Gen. Al Zubi said in parts of his intervention: the direction of the Iranian role in Syria. The Iranian role in Syria is crystal-clear in supporting the authoritarian regime of Bashar Assad, whether by supporting the Hezbollah militia and its entry into Syria or supporting militias used by Iran from Afghanistan or Iraqi militias. Let’s start from a first point, it supports the Syrian regime with weapons. It also supports the regime with individuals and terrorist militias.
Weapons support are made by aircraft whether directly through Iraqi airspace or Russian aircraft over the Iranian skies and Iraqi skies to Damascus. There was a clear decision from the United States saying that it is necessary to inspect these planes and make sure they do not have an arms cargo. There was one search ordered by Nuri al-Maliki of an Iranian aircraft but it was only a charade, the aircraft was not carrying anything, and large transport and cargo planes continued to transfer weapons. Russian aircraft also continued to transfer weapons over Iranian and Iraqi airspace. There were Iraqi aircraft which were placed in Iran during the Second Gulf War, there were about 130 planes, and the Iranian regime dismantled these aircraft to send them to the Syrian regime in order to revive the Syrian air force. … Also there were Iranian aircraft carrying rockets and bombs to bomb the Iraqi people which were forced to land in Deir ez-Zor’s Airport in Qamishli airport and “Seine” Airport. Then all of these images were completely indicating the depth of relations between the Syrian and the Iranian regime, knowing that there were factories for the artillery, which were found in Syria, especially in the area of the south-west of Homs which had been working night and day for supporting the Iranian military then this also shows the depth of these relations, These relationship in fact has not halted. To the contrary it has evolved into more than that in the era of Bashar al-Assad.
I think that there were a number of Iranian immigrants, or so-called pilgrims moving to Damascus. They have had access to housing areas, receiving land by the subordination of this state. As this land has been acquired from the Syrian regime, these minorities have begun increasing. It began to show clearly, began to be visible in the celebrations, and began to be visible in several Damascus sites, especially in the neighborhood Shaalan, district vacancy, King Faisal Street, Rukn al-Din Street and other areas.
During the revolution Iran exercised a great amount of pressures even being able to form local militias which were directly subordinate to Iran and out of obedience to the Syrian regime. Iran has begun communicating with a number of [Syrian] officers, luring them with money and their loyalties began to be to the Iranian regime and this is what has caused the Syrian regime to be worried dramatically. … Russia in the first phase reduced the Iranian role.
Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Hajj, an advisor at the Syrian National Council, said that the Syrian ceasefire came at a time that perhaps could be described as too hard, especially in the northern regions where there is a strong intensity of the air fire on the opposition‘s fighters and also there have beeen a form of progress of the regime in areas under the opposition’s control… the progress remains partial. In recent times Syrian jets kept shelling civilians and throwing explosive barrels on the densely populated places. So for the first time we talked of a general cease-fire; before that there were offers. Many of them were Arab proposals and then Kofi Annan’s one… of course, this does not mean that there were no violations during this period, but in the end there is remarkably quiet in general, people felt they were now able to go out without being exposed to fire, Civilians felt safe if they move in their areas. during the last period the regime thought able to eliminate the spirit of the revolution and that the militarization of the revolution, there is no longer demanding to topple the regime, the battle became between armed groups and the regime and between insurgents and armed groups and the regime or between extremist organizations and armed groups and between the regime but … The truth emerged for all that the Syrians still keeping the spirit of the revolution in all parts of Syria. They are all calling to topple the regime, and demanding freedom and dignity. This confirms unequivocally … that all what the Syrian regime did in cooperating with the Iranian regime and later primarily with Russia, could not affect the desire of the Syrian revolution, and the revolution continues until this moment. Syrians are now relieved from the flames that had come upon them without warning and barrel bombs blindly killing over large areas much like a genocide. Now they are comfortable. In these circumstance certainly the only loser of this is the regime because by stopping its targeting of civilians, people came directly to restore the revolution back to the street….. Now once again the cease-fire forced the regime to halt its fire, despite that it is the one who has air superiority and deprives fighters and the Free Syrian Army from weapons for self-defense and anti-aircraft. Now we are in a very good situation for civilians, this will greatly help continuity and development for peaceful resistance and perhaps also helps the development of military organizations and now they are organizing the military work. It’s also a chance to regain territory from ISIS. It’s an opportunity for everyone to regain what the opposition had liberated which ISIS later reoccupied.
Dr. Zahedi during his speech at the seminar insisted that information coming from inside the mullahs’ regime shows that the mullahs in Iran are against the truce and against a cease-fire as well as against the negotiations in Geneva. Here, the Iranian regime position is different from Russia’s one. On the military sphere and the cease-fire the Iranian‘s regime forces did not change anything in the military field where the troops deployed in the held positions. For example IRGC members say that they are located in the city of Nabl and travel the city of Mayer in the north of Aleppo, the IRGC forces do not change in this region. And he said that the IRGC troops are obliged to keep their positions in the city of Meyer and create a seat of leadership there. Also, another source said in a report that the IRGC troops are forced at the moment to observe the cease-fire, as the Russian army decided on a ceasefire and the others must implement the Russian decisions.
It is noteworthy that the existing information indicates that the pace of the transfer of troops from Iran and Iraq through the city of Abadan is continuing. This means that the cease-fire was imposed on these forces and they are violating the ceasefire constantly. An expert from the Iranian regime says that Iran’s stance is against the Geneva negotiations but it can’t oppose them publicly. Our assessment is that Iran’s regime will be the biggest loser in these negotiations. On the effects of the Russian withdrawal from Syria there are several internal reports in the Iranian regime, offering different assessments of this initiative. But the common denominator of these reports is that Russia has taken a different path to that of the Iranian regime, and as was expected since the beginning, the motives of the launch of Russia’s entry into the Syrian war was different from those of the Iranian regime. All reports agree that the biggest loser in the withdrawal of Russia, whatever the dimensions of this withdrawal, is the Iranian regime and the Iranian IRGC. This initiative has a negative impact on the morale of the IRGC and the whole regime.
But in terms of the approach chosen by the regime, especially in the ongoing negotiations, there are divergent views according to the internal reports of the regime. This shows the floundering of the mullahs’ regime after the Russian withdrawal. For example, one of the IRGC leaders says the reason for Russia’s entry into the war in Syria was her feeling that their interests were compromised in the eastern Mediterranean so it intervened so as not to be written off, from the beginning, Russia’s intervention in this war was not for Iran. If it can secure its own interests it will not follow the Iranian line. So it can be concluded that the entry of Russia in the Syrian war was from two angles: the military field it was looking for a base in Latakia and it did not want to pay a high price for other regions, and the other dispute between Iran and Russia is that Russia supports the Kurds and that Russia supports the division of Syria, while Iran is opposed to this idea as the establishment of a Kurdish state in Syria threaten Iran’s national sovereignty. Another expert of the regime is saying on the withdrawal of Russia that Russia’s withdrawal was a surprise to Iran; when Russia intervened in Syria it was clear they were looking for their interests and that they had not come to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. For Russia, losing Bashar was never a red line, but for Iran’s regime, this is a red line.