Larijani: “Our differences of opinion with Turkey over the issue of Syria are not strategic”

In an interview with Al-Manar TV (reported by Mehr News Agency) Ali Larijani, the current speaker for Iran’s legislature known as the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis, talked about a number of Iran’s most pressing regional foreign policy issues, including the disagreement with Turkey over ongoing violence in Syria, the furor over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Abu Musa island, and the possibility of a military strike on Iran by Israel.

Discussing Iran’s relations with Turkey in light of the violence in Syria, where the two states appear to be on opposite sides, Larijani said that “the people’s will” in Syria must be recognized and that:

“Iran and Turkey both believe in the implementation of reforms in Syria, therefore there are no strategic differences in this regard and only discussions on the methods for implementing reforms.”

He stated his belief that when it came to regional affairs, Turkey and the West were not of the same opinion because “They [the Turks] have been sensitive to the Palestinian issues and have objected to the behaviour of Israel.”

During the interview Larijani attempted to clarify Iran’s position vis-a-vis Syria:

“Iran is attempting to implement reforms in Syria, the rule of democracy, formation of civil society organizations, and [ensuring] that the axis of resistance [against Israel] shall not be broken.”

He continued to say that some of the small dictatorial countries in the region [a veiled reference to the Arab Gulf monarchies] were worried about the situation in Syria, but during the 33 day [Israel-Lebanon] and 22 day [Israel-Gaza] wars these same countries gave no aid to the Lebanese and Palestinian people and may have even provided support for Israel. He said that Iran’s position on Syria, which was communicated to Kofi Annan during the latter’s visit to Iran as part of his mission to help broker a ceasefire in Syria, was that Iran was opposed to all “military intervention” in the country. This included both the channeling of weapons to insurgent groups by outside powers and direct military intervention to topple the regime:

“We suggest to them that this issue is playing with gunpowder and they should not think that sending weapons to Syria and stoking the fire will be an easy exercise…When the flames of war rise they shall spread to many countries.”

Next, Larijani touched on the recent controversy with the United Arab Emirates over President Ahmadinejad’s visit to the disputed island of Abu Musa. Explaining that Iran’s strategy toward the UAE had been simultaneously characterized by “convergence” and “friendly behaviour”, he expressed his feeling that “the recent claims of the Emirates is rude and some of the officials of this country have said some things that is not good for them.” He asserted that the visit of President Ahmadinejad to the island was purely a domestic matter as far as Iran was concerned.

Finally, talked about the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, an issue that has garnered much media attention in the last several years:

“The Israelis are not so thoughtless as to enter a battlefield when they know the results from the outset. Given that they were defeated by a small Lebanese group (Hezbollah), they therefore certainly cannot persevere against Iran’s 70 million [people]…Iran does not assault any country and does not accept such actions, but when a country assaults our soil we shall fight them to their last breath so that they shall not repeat such an experience for another country.”