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News | Senior Iran Official: 'Hands Should Be Cut Off' from Syrian Meddling

17 Nov 2011 03:10Comments

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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

MJLarijaniHands.jpg3:10 a.m., 26 Aban/November 17 Speaking with reporters in New York on Wednesday, Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights and often described as a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressed the situation in Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran's, is increasingly embattled. On Saturday, the Arab League suspended Syria's membership in the face of the Assad regime's ongoing crackdown against protestors and effective dismissal of a league-sponsored peace pact -- a move delayed late Wednesday by the league's announcement of a new offer to send monitors to the country.

According to the Voice of America's account,

Larijani condemned what he said is "incitement" by the United States, European powers and Arab nations to urge the opposition to take up arms against the government.

"These are very dangerous events; we are against this kind of meddling in the situation," he said. "Our position is that all the hands should be cut off from this kind of interference. It is up to the people of Syria to decide. We respect, everybody should respect, the decision of the people of Syria."

Asked about the move at the Arab League to suspend Syria, Larijani questioned the group's motive, saying he did not think it was about protecting the rights of Syrians to pursue democracy.

"So it seems that democracy is not the issue," said Larijani. "So if democracy is not the issue, then what is the issue? I think the issue is they want to generate a government that is submissive toward Israel more than the present government."

While Larijani, like other Iranian officials before him, lauded the Arab Spring in general terms, a report that appeared Wednesday evening on the website of Press TV, the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, is indicative of the slant that Iran's official and semiofficial media have taken on the specific case of the Syrian uprising:

The Shia community in the Syrian city of Homs has been the main target of armed groups since the beginning of unrest in the country.

According to local reports, more than 115 Shias have been killed in the restive city in the past few months.

Assailants have also destroyed and set ablaze dozens of Shia-owned homes and businesses.

The violence has forced many families to flee the area and seek refuge elsewhere.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have rallied across the country on Wednesday to express their support for President Bashar al-Assad.

The demonstrators also stressed the need for national unity, security and stability. They also condemned the AL decision to suspend Damascus from the 22-member bloc.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations held both against and in support of President Assad. [...]

The opposition and Western countries accuse Syrian security forces of being behind the killings in the country, but the government blames what it describes as outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.

***

As rhetoric escalates from Israeli officials suggesting the possibility of a military strike against the Iranian nuclear program, the Majles this week approved stringent new penalties on travel to Israel (referred to as "occupied Palestine") by Iranian citizens. As reported by Radio Zamaneh,

Iran's Parliament has passed new legislation approving prison sentences of two to five years for Iranians who travel to Israel.

Iranian MPs also voted to withhold a passport from Iranians caught travelling to Israel for a period of three to five years, on top of the two to five years in prison. The motion was passed 131 to 3 with 11 abstaining.

Previously, the law stated that an Iranian passport was valid for travel to all countries except where banned by the government for particular reasons.

Failure to follow those regulations was subject to two months in prison and up to ten dollars in fines.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have cancelled their planned participation at Washington D.C.'s annual Saban Forum, evidently to avoid being drawn into a debate over the Iranian nuclear program. Haaretz, Israel's leading relatively liberal daily, reports,

According to sources in Jerusalem, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned to Barak and Lieberman asked them not to give speeches on Iran, which is one of the main subjects of the conference, due to the current international sensitivity of the issue and Israel's desire to keep a "low profile" on the matter in order to avoid harming efforts to impose further sanctions on Iran.

According to other sources, Lieberman and Barak were asked to cancel their participation in the event in order to avoid a public debate on the Iranian issue with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi, who are publicly opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran. [...]

Barak's office confirmed that he had canceled his participation in the Saban Forum, but claimed the reason was simply due to scheduling. Lieberman's office refused to comment.

In 2009, Barak had declared, "I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel." However, according to a report that appeared in Haaretz Magazine in late September (as translated by blogger Richard Silverstein), several people who had spoken with Barak concerning the Iranian issue in recent months "were shocked by his apocalyptic tone. In the case of Barak, the question always arises whether he really means what he's saying...does he believe that if Israel prepares a military option and threatens persuasively enough, that the world will awaken and take action on its behalf. But nevertheless, more and more people are worried that Barak is serious." Lieberman, who formerly opposed an attack on Iran, was reportedly convinced to change his position recently by Barak and Netanyahu.

As noted here, Dagan, by contrast, told a meeting of Israel's Council for Peace and Security in early October that a military attack against Iran was "far from being Israel's preferred option" and that "there are currently tools and methods that are much more effective." He also expressed the view that the Iranian nuclear program was still not close to weaponization.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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