TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - “I will say first of all that the simple fact that such a summit could take place, and more to the point take place in Iran is a tremendous achievement - proof once again that Iran sits a powerful peacemaker indeed,” Director of Programs at Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies Catherine Shakdam said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
Shakdam is an expert commentator and political consultant. Her writings have appeared in Foreign Policy Association and the Guardian among many other media outlets. Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: As you know, a trilateral summit was held in Tehran on Friday between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about the Syrian crisis. According to Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi, the summit was not expected to resolve all issues surrounding the prolonged crisis in Syria but it aimed to facilitate more steps to combat terrorism and restore tranquility to the Arab country. What do you think about the success of the summit as well as Iran’s regional role?
Shakdam: I will say first of all that the simple fact that such a summit could take place, and more to the point take place in Iran, is a tremendous achievement - proof once again that Iran sits a powerful peacemaker indeed. Given the protracted nature of the Syrian conflict, I think it stands to reason for Iran to wish to first establish a strong common ground before it could ambition to iron out all differences and issues - notwithstanding that any real peace in Syria would, of course, have to be sanctioned by Damascus government.
The summit was an important affirmation of Iran’s regional role and its commitment towards peace through the assertion of the principle of sovereignty. By commitment to peace, I evidently include Tehran’s dedication to see the back of each and every terror militants. I also believe that it signals a definite shift in regional dynamics in that Turkey - following many changes of heart, to say the least, is finally coming to the conclusion that it will fare better as an ally and a friend of Iran than a foe.
What we are witnessing and have been witnessing for a good while is a powerful realignment of power dynamics and how power is being conceptualized in relation to Western powers. Western capitals are losing their grip on the Greater Middle East.
Tasnim: The tripartite talks came as Syrian forces continue to reclaim much of southern parts of the country and are poised to soon launch an offensive in Idlib, one of the last remaining areas outside of Damascus’ control. What is your assessment of the summit’s impact on the military developments in Syria?
Shakdam: Syria already won the war as far as the military is concerned. It is really a matter of cleaning up really. Idlib will be the last battle against Daesh and its outcome is evident. Syria will not lose this fight. Syrians’ dedication to Syria and the many sacrifices made over the years will culminate with a victory in Idlib. That much I am certain of.
What remains unclear is how mainstream media will tell the tale of Idlib and whether or not certain lies and deceptions will eventually come to light. It is impossible today to deny … by America’s own admission actually, that Washington is, in fact, supporting terror militants to weaken Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. What amazes me is public apathy before such realization. So much of America’s dirty games have been revealed in Syria … Maybe it is time to call for accountability in the face of crimes against humanity. As far as what impact the summit will have on the military front I would say that it will further comfort soldiers in the belief that victory is at hand and that soon they will be able to return home. I don’t think we can give Syrian soldiers and their allies enough credit for the feats they accomplished. To fight an enemy such as Daesh and maintain dignity throughout, while keeping to the rules of war is a credit to Syria and its allies’ courage. Let us remember that this war was imposed on Syria and that Syria had every right to defend itself against the aggressor.
Tasnim: In his remarks at the summit, President Rouhani deplored the Washington government’s negative role in the ongoing crisis in Syria and said the “illegal” military presence of the US will only “increase the problems that already exist in the country”. What do you think about the US military presence and its bonds with terror groups in Syria?
Shakdam: President Rouhani is absolutely right in his assessment of America’s intervention in Syria. The US has no jurisdiction over Syria. The US cannot go about ignoring the international law just because it feels entitled to do so.
Such exceptionalism cannot and should not be tolerated. Syria is a sovereign nation and so only it can decide whose intervention is welcomed and whose is not. Both Iran and Russia were invited to enter the war theater by Damascus. I don’t recall President Al-Assad extending such invitation to the US. More to the point, the US has backed terror militants to topple Damascus! This in itself is illegal … never mind an act of war against a sovereign state. America, in the name of its exceptionalism, has perpetrated atrocities on Syrian soil. Such actions ought to be denounced in the strongest terms possible.
Iran is acting in accordance with international law by speaking out against America’s intervention.
It is incredible how short a memory the public has when it comes to the Middle East and in particular Washington’s military interventionism. Crying out democracy-building is not a justification for war. Claiming to have lofty goals does not make it so by virtue of geography. This notion that the West knows better and is better is ludicrous and frankly irrational. If we keep in mind just how many wars the US has been responsible for over the decades … never mind the centuries, we ought to rethink our assessment of the so-called western democratic model.