The Russian Navy landing ship Novocherkassk passes the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul yesterday, en route to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
DUBAI: Iran’s most powerful authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, yesterday said the United States was using a chemical attack in Syria’s civil war as a pretext to interfere in the country and warned it would suffer loss from any intervention.
“In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext... The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they’ve become involved in this case for humanitarian aims,” Khamenei told a meeting of the Assembly of Experts, a state body.
“I believe the Americans are making mistakes in Syria and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss,” he said in the speech, whose text was published on his official website.
Khamenei’s words indicate no let-up in Iran’s considerable support for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, its closest ally who stands accused by Western powers of launching poison gas into an embattled suburb of Damascus on August 21. Around 1,400 people were killed, according to US officials.
On Wednesday, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force, Qassem Soleimani, told the Assembly of Experts that the Islamic Republic would “support Syria to the end”, according to the Fars news agency.
Some analysts believe a wider goal of US President Barack Obama’s determination to launch a strike against the Damascus regime is to blunt Tehran’s growing regional influence and any consequent threat to Washington ally Israel.
“The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights ... but to destroy the front of resistance (against Israel),” Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was quoted as saying.
“We will support Syria to the end,” he added in a speech to the Assembly of Experts, the body that supervises the work of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He did not elaborate on the nature of the support and Iran has constantly denied allegations by Western powers that it has sent military forces to prop up Assad’s embattled regime.
Soleimani accused the US of using its claims that Syria’s forces had unleashed chemical weapons on civilians last month as a “pretext” to try to topple Assad’s regime.
Iran’s Defence Minister Hossein Dehqan, meanwhile, ruled out sending troops or weapons to Syria.
“The Syrians do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves,” he was cited in the local media as saying.
President Hassan Rowhani said Iran will do “everything to prevent” an attack on the Syrian regime, according to extracts from statements he made before the Assembly of Experts published in the media.
“Any action against Syria is against the interests of the region but also against the friends of the United States in this region,”
“Such action will help nobody.”
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said yesterday that Syrian opposition groups may meet again within four to six weeks.
“The most important is that, regardless of whether there is an intervention in Syria and who participates or doesn’t participate, the solution to the conflict will necessarily be political,” Garcia-Margallo said during a visit to Uruguay.
“We’re part of the Friends of Syria group. We’ve hosted two opposition meetings in Madrid, probably within a month or a month and half there will be another meeting,” he added.
The Friends of Syria group includes 11 Western and Arab countries opposed to Assad. Garcia-Margallo did not specify which opposition groups would attend the possible talks.
Attempts to organize a so-called “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria to revive a political transition plan agreed in the Swiss city in June 2012 have been futile and appear even more so after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus late last month.