Iran says ISIS cannot be defeated without Damascus
Published Monday, September 15, 2014
Updated at 7:13 pm (GMT +3): Tehran ridiculed an international conference on the jihadist threat that opened in Paris on Monday, insisting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cannot be defeated without the support of Damascus.
Top officials from around the world met in Paris Monday to fine-tune their strategy against the ISIS militants.
Neither Iran nor Syria were invited to the meeting in the French capital, despite Damascus’ involvement in almost daily military action against ISIS.
"The best way of fighting ISIS and terrorism in the region is to help and strengthen the Iraqi and Syrian governments, which have been engaged in a serious struggle against terrorism," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told a visiting French lawmaker.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has not been waiting for the formation of an international coalition -- it has been carrying out its obligations," he told foreign affairs committee chairwoman Patricia Adam, the ISNA news agency reported.
Iraq's foreign minister on Monday voiced "regret" that Iran was not invited to an international conference in Paris to discuss the threat posed by Islamic State militants.
"We insisted that Iran be present. However, it's not us that took the decision. We regret the absence of Iran at this conference," Ibrahim al-Jaafari told reporters.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday urged Iran to cooperate with the international coalition to fight jihadists in Iraq.
Hammond made the call in Paris after a major conference on Iraq as Iran refused to join an anti-jihadist coalition.
"It was always unlikely that Iran would become a fully fledged member of the coalition but I think we should continue to hope that Iran will align itself broadly with the direction that the coalition is going," Hammond told reporters.
He also said he hoped Iran would be "cooperative with the plans that the coalition is putting in place, if not actively a part of the coalition."
Iran has rejected American overtures to help in the alleged fight against ISIS militants.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday dismissed as hollow and self-serving US efforts to build a coalition against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.
"American officials' comments on forming an anti-Islamic State (alliance) are blank, hollow and self-serving, and contradictions in their behaviors and statements attest to this fact," Khamenei said in brief remarks to state television.
US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed on Friday that Washington opposed Tehran's participation because of its "engagement in Syria and elsewhere.”
However, Iran’s Khamenei said that Iran rejected a US request for cooperation against ISIS.
"Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate against ISIS," Khamenei said in a statement on his official website.
"I said no, because they have dirty hands," said Khamenei.
"Secretary of State (John Kerry) personally asked (Iranian counterpart) Mohammad Javad Zarif and he rejected the request," Khamenei added.
Kerry then refused be drawn into a "back and forth" with Iran.
"I'm not going to get into a back and forth. I don't want to do that. I don't think that is constructive, frankly," Kerry told reporters at the US ambassador's residence in Paris.
Iranian officials say that only a change of policy toward the Damascus regime by Washington and its Gulf Arab allies can turn the tables.
They also charge that it was Gulf Arab and US support for the rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian government since 2011 that paved the way for the rise of ISIS.
Critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with the jihadi militants have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering the armed opposition in Syria.
Last week, a study by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the “moderate” rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad emphasized on the centrality of Syria in any coalition against ISIS.
"Terrorism didn't start in Syria today, it started four years ago" when the so-called uprising against Assad began, Shaaban was quoted as saying by state news agency SANA.
"So it is crucial that its victim, which has been damaged by this scourge, be a key part of the fight against terrorism," she added.
All countries that adopted a UN Security Council resolution against ISIS "must be part of the fight against terrorism," Shaaban said.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)