A farcical meeting in Tehran, as the Syrian situation worsens
The Syrian military launched its expected operation against the country’s second-largest and most historical city of Aleppo yesterday, Aug. 8. It was sad to see pictures of the once-posh Al-Salahaddin district destroyed and deserted.
The number of refugees fleeing from Aleppo and towns further north to the Turkish border 50 kilometers away is on rise, reportedly exceeding 50,000 by yesterday. Turkish officials have already announced that they are preparing to host at least 100,000.
Ankara is waiting for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to arrive for talks about Syria over the weekend. By that time the Turkish government will have reviewed its game plan, to discuss it with the Americans.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu left Turkey yesterday for Myanmar to demonstrate support for Muslims there, together with Emine Erdoğan, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife, and a symbolic humanitarian aid mission.
Under other circumstances, Turkey might have considered attending a Syria conference organized by Iran to find a way for Bashar al-Assad to settle with the opposition groups and retain his seat. But for three main reasons, Ankara skipped it.
First, ignoring the worsening situation in Syria, Iran vowed to back al-Assad all the way down when Saeed Jalili, the head of National Security Council, visited Damascus on Aug. 7.
Secondly, after Russia, the main pillar the Baathist regime in Damascus had to lean on, began sending the messages that it would be really difficult for Assad to remain in power, it may be too late to give al-Assad a last chance, since almost every player but Iran has begun to work on post-al-Assad scenarios.
And thirdly, earlier on the same day that Jalili gave Iran’s full support to the Syrian regime, Iran’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi said he held Turkey, together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to be responsible for the situation in Syria, and claimed it might be Turkey’s turn for turmoil next.
But just a few hours before, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had taken off for Turkey to ask for Ankara’s help with the rescue of 48 Iranians (of whom he later admitted that some were “retired” members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards) kidnapped by rebels in Syria. Before Salehi arrived in Ankara, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had issued a very bitter statement against Iran due to Firouzabadi’s statement. Salehi got a promise of help with the rescue operation, but accompanied by a lot of long faces.
Erdoğan delivered a speech Tuesday night denouncing Iran for being unfaithful and giving hidden support to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is waging an armed campaign against Turkey, and asking Tehran to behave honestly.
The summit in Tehran sounds really farcical: Iran will be discussing how to keep al-Assad in his position with a handful of Latin American and African countries.
The Syrian military operation in Aleppo is likely to claim far more lives, and result in more refugees and ruined cities, but it is not likely to save al-Assad for too much longer.