In Iran, cautious reaction to Syrian chemical weapons deal


Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, center, said he was hopeful that “logic would prevail and extremist movements on the international scene will not intensify.” (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
September 15, 2013

Iran is taking a cautious approach to Saturday’s agreement between the United States and Russia to reduce the Syrian government’s stockpile of chemical weapons, offering a small sign that its leaders may see an opportunity for a diplomatic breakthrough with Washington in the near future.

Twenty-four hours after the deal was announced, neither Iranian President Hassan Rouhani nor his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had commented on the arrangement, which greatly diminished the likelihood of a U.S.-led military response to the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children.

Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, is the highest-ranking official to offer a reaction thus far.

On Saturday, he told a gathering of reporters in Tehran that he was hopeful that “logic would prevail and extremist movements on the international scene will not intensify. Of course what we have seen these past days shows a little bit of logic.”

Mohsen Rezaei, a two-time presidential candidate and former head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was more skeptical.

The head of Syria's main armed opposition group, Gen. Salim Idris, criticized the agreement between the U.S. and Russia for the Assad regime to give up its chemical weapons. Meanwhile, doubts persist on how realistic the operation can be in an active war zone.

“This is a military tactic,” Rezaei said. “Usually when they decide to attack a country, they take its most dangerous weapons first and then strike. What the U.S. is doing could be a political game. I hope the U.S. does not have such an intention and that they try to resolve the problem in a peaceful way.”

With the United Nations General Assembly in New York beginning in less than two weeks, Iran is likely trying to reduce tension between Washington and Tehran, as speculation mounts that high-ranking officials from the two countries may hold talks for the first time in decades.

The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1979, when Iranian students invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Jason Rezaian has been The Post’s correspondent in Tehran since 2012. He was previously a freelance writer based in Tehran.
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