Syria sees West easing tough stance after Iran deal: Assad aide

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 23, 2015 1:16 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A close adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Iran's nuclear accord with world powers will force the West to soften its stance against Damascus and deal with its government to find a negotiated solution to Syria's civil war.

Tehran has given vital financial and military support to Assad in a four-year-old conflict that has become a battleground for Shi'ite Muslim Iran's regional power struggle with Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, which backs insurgent forces in Syria.

Western powers have supported non-Islamist rebels in Syria and said there was no room for Assad in a future Syria.

"What I see in this (nuclear) agreement is a turnaround by the West, where it has begun to realize that it has to change its ways," Assad aide Bouthaina Shaaban said in an interview with the Beirut-based al Mayadeen television.

"Western policy in the region has reached a dead end," she said in footage aired on Thursday.

The British Special Representative for Syria, Gareth Bayley, said in a tweet on Thursday: "There can be no talking to Assad. At the same time, (there) needs to be political settlement leading directly to transition."

Shaaban said there were signs of a rapprochement between Russia and the United States following the Iran deal that would usher in a new regional realignment in which "everyone is reviewing past policies".

The United States is expected to become more accommodating of Moscow's view of the Syrian crisis, she said. Russia is another ally of the Assad government that has long opposed Western intervention and vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions that would lead to tougher sanctions imposed on Damascus.

"This (nuclear) agreement today will impose new formulas and a new reality in the region...but its nature will be different and more positive towards Syria," Shaaban said.

"NO WORRY" IRAN WILL ABANDON SYRIA

She said her government did not see Iran abandoning its support as a result of its diplomatic breakthrough with the West on its disputed nuclear program, asserting that Damascus and Tehran had enjoyed strategic ties for "decades".

"There is no Syrian worry about this and as, we had rejected in the past disengaging with Iran, so will Tehran."

Syria's war has killed close to a quarter of a million people and drove millions more from their homes in the worst global refugee crisis since World War Two.

Iranian military support for Assad has come in the form of its backing for the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Assad's forces in the war, the deployment of Iranian military advisers and the mobilization of Shi'ite fighters from elsewhere in the Middle East.

Assad signaled earlier this month that he expected yet more support from Iran following the nuclear deal.

Shaaban said a U.S-led air strike campaign against Islamic State insurgents in Syria and Iraq was forcing a reassessment by the West towards accepting Russian proposals to widen the coalition against jihadists to include Syria alongside Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

Syria has accused these states of aiding the insurgents.

"This is a change of course by the United States towards the Russian logic -- it had warned at the start of the coalition that it would not succeed if it did not include the relevant countries or the countries of the region," Shaaban said.

"I see some inclination from the West to benefit from the Russian view and it is from this that the optimism comes that the region could face better days."

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi)