Last Updated: Tue Nov 01, 2011 09:11 am (KSA) 06:11 am (GMT)

U.S. and Iran discuss Syrian crisis in back-channel diplomacy: report

Iran is in talks with the United States over Syria after the fall of Assad. (File photo)
Iran is in talks with the United States over Syria after the fall of Assad. (File photo)

Iranian and U.S. government representatives have discussed ways to prevent Syria from descending into bloody chaos should the regime of embattled President Bashar al-Assad collapse, French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported on Sunday, quoting a Syrian opposition figure in exile.

The paper said the back-channel diplomacy between American and Iranian diplomats occurred at two meetings, one at the end of August and one at the beginning of September, but it did not indicate where.

“They spoke about putting in place a high military council on the Egyptian model, with generals running the country and responsible for making senior strategic options,” the paper quoted the Syrian opposition figure as saying.

According to a French diplomat in charge of the Syrian crisis quoted in the report, Iranian officials have adapted to the idea of a new government in Damascus and “even to a change at the top of the regime.”

The diplomat said that Iran was keen to avoid a civil war in Syria, as it could spill over across its border. The paper said the relationship between Tehran and Damascus was not balanced, which explains the influence Iran has on the regime in Damascus.

American diplomats urged Iranians not to disrupt stability in Iraq before the complete pullout of U.S. troops by the end of 2011 and to stop supporting “terror” groups in the region, namely Hamas and Hezbollah. From their side, Iranians asked the United States not to support a post-Assad regime that is hostile to Iran.

Both parties agreed that any future regime in Syrian should have a “regional” scope and enjoy friendly ties with different powers in the Middle East, the paper reported.

Quoting French ambassador to Damascus Eric Chevallier speaking before the foreign affairs committee at the French National Assembly, the paper said Iranians recently advised the Syrians to stop firing in the streets, urging them instead to identify the leaders of the uprising and arrest them at night.

This, the report says, indicates the Iranian ambiguity about Syria. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi recently denounced the use of excessive force against civilians in Syria, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guards continue to deploy special forces in Syria to help quell the uprising there.

The Islamic Republic even deployed special military units to fight along former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces in Libya; the goal was to prolong the war so that international public attention was deflected from Syria, according to the report. Anticipating Qaddafi’s fall, Iran ordered its special forces out of Libya to join Sudan and Syria.

(Written by Mustapha Ajbaili)

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