Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

Russian-brokered deals have paved the way for fighters and civilians to be evacuated from Eastern Ghouta in the past weeks. (Reuters)
Updated 03 April 2018
0

Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

  • Syrian opposition to Assad's regime vowed to continue the revolution after loosing Ghouta
JEDDAH: The Syrian opposition on Monday pledged to continue the revolution against President Bashar Assad as pro-regime forces drew closer to taking full control of the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
“What’s happening in Syria isn’t a matter of geography,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
“The uprising in Syria is in the hearts and minds of people who reject the brutal dictatorship (of Assad). We’ll never stop.”
Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said in an editorial on Monday that it was a matter of hours until Douma, the last significant center of resistance in Eastern Ghouta, was declared a “town empty of terrorism.”
Backed by Russia, pro-regime forces have scored a series of victories over the opposition in recent years, often through sieges, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread international condemnation.
“These aren’t Assad victories. This is an occupation achieved with horrible military power against civilians,” said Al-Aridi. “This is the propaganda of the regime and Iran when they talk about victory. It’s immoral.”
His remarks came as the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey planned to meet on Wednesday in Ankara for their second three-way summit on Syria.
The meeting follows the first tripartite summit between the three presidents in Sochi last November.
Al-Aridi said: “It’s the start of the revolution all over again — reorganizing and learning from mistakes made… and organizing forces at the political and other levels. We’ll rebuild our efforts on different levels.”
He added: “Our uprising has been peaceful from the very beginning. We didn’t select to carry weapons. We just tried to defend ourselves.”
He said: “The regime created all sorts of pretexts, including terrorism, militias, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front. And it internationalized the Syrian case so it could sideline the people’s main request for freedom.”
US Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned President Donald Trump on Sunday against pulling American troops out of Syria, saying it would lead to a resurgence of Daesh and increased Iranian sway in the country.
Al-Aridi said: “The main beneficiary of Daesh is the Syrian regime and those who support it. Iran and Russia used Daesh as a pretext to rescue a falling regime.
He added: “The revival of Daesh, if there is one, will be used again to oppress and suppress and kill people. Daesh is a tool in the hands of dictators.”
He said: “There are different narratives of the deal struck between the people of Douma and Russia. The opposition says the wounded will be taken away for treatment but the people will remain there.
“Russia’s story is different. It wants everybody removed. No final deal has been achieved yet. This is the last thing we heard from our people.”
A Russian-brokered deal had been reported on Sunday for fighters with Jaish Al-Islam, the largest opposition group still in Eastern Ghouta, to leave Douma.
But the fighters have not yet confirmed the agreement, amid reports of divisions within the group as hard-liners refuse to abandon their posts.
In the past few weeks, such deals have seen more than 46,000 people — fighters and civilians — board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwest province of Idlib, which is largely outside regime control.
“It isn’t the Syrian regime that has occupied Eastern Ghouta or has full control over it. It’s an Iranian and Russian occupation,” said Al-Aridi.
He condemned “the Iranians with their militias on the ground and their vicious plan, and the Russians with their deadly jets bombing everything in a scorched-earth strategy like what they did in Grozny,” the capital of Chechnya.
“People from the very beginning didn’t select to carry weapons. They chanted for freedom, but the regime resisted with firepower and killed them.”


Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

Updated 16 July 2019
0

Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

  • Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal
  • The US quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions

UNITED NATIONS: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.
Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.
“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.
Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.
But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”
Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.
Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.
“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.
No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.
“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”
The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.
Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from traveling outside a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.
Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.
Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.
Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.
Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.