The statement made by Commander of Iran's Quds Force, Major General Qasem Soleimani, has sparked controversy in Lebanon after he was quoted last week as saying, "Lebanon and Iraq are under the influence of Iran." Fares Soueid, March 14 General Secretariat Coordinator, said in a statement that a number of Lebanese [leaders] opposing Iran demanded explanations, especially from Hezbollah. A series of comments have followed his statement in the last 48 hours.
[In an interview with Al-Safir in Beirut,] Iran's ambassador, Dr. Ghazanfar Roknabadi, has categorically denied that Soleimani said these words, explaining that there was "an intentional error in translation." He added that Soleimani "talked about the extent to which many countries in the region, including Lebanon and Iraq, have been impressed by Iran’s mode of conduct and its [way of] thinking in defiance of oppressors and occupiers.”
In response to whether his reply was convincing for the Lebanese opposition, Roknabadi said, "I am surprised by the fuss that was made even before verifying the news and reading the original Persian text of the Commander of Iran's Quds Force, who was addressing a group of young [students]. In his original statement, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani said that many countries in the region are inspired by the ideas of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. However, the essence of his statement has been deliberately distorted.”
The Iranian Ambassador said, "we derive our principles from the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. [These principles] are clear and they indicate Iran's eagerness to preserve the independence, dignity and sovereignty of all countries in the world. Iran will never allow any [country] to meddle in its internal affairs, and it will never interfere in the affairs of others. Based on this, we firmly deny the statement attributed to Maj. Gen. Soleimani.”
Turkey and the Syrian Crisis
Asked about the possibility of an Iranian mediation regarding the Syrian file, Roknabadi said, "Iran's position has been clear since the very beginning. It supports the just demands of the people, including the Syrian people. It is clearly evident that the Syrian people want reform and Iran supports this regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, who, in turn, has started making some reforms. Consequently, it is natural that Iran stands by this popular Syrian demand. We believe that what is happening in Syria should be resolved within Syria, without any foreign intervention. We are doing our best to support this Syrian popular demand and we are looking forward to stability and security to be re-established across the country. We want the popular demands to be achieved.”
Asked whether Iran is still supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Roknabadi said, "we support the Syrian people, the Syrian leadership and the Syrian Government, especially considering that we are certain that the majority of the Syrian people want to accomplish these reforms under President Bashar al-Assad. Thus it is natural that we support this majority.”
Asked about the bilateral Turkish-Iranian visits and events in Syria, Roknabadi said, "we have discussed a number of subjects, including regional events and the Syrian uprising in particular, and we recognize [the seriousness] of these incidents, as we cannot ignore what is happening on the ground. We noted that the majority of the Syrian people support the current regime, and based on our Constitution, we cannot ignore this majority. We stressed to our Turkish brothers the presence of a Syrian will to solve the problems in Syria, and we told them that, as Iranians, we oppose any foreign intervention. The Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkish officials have agreed that stability [should be restored in Syria.]
Regarding the potential degeneration of the situation into a civil war, as well as the internationalization of the Syrian crisis and its transfer to the UN Security Council, Rokenabadi said, "predictions and assumptions are not facts. He who travels to Syria and moves across the country does not see any of the [stories] which are being, unfortunately, [fabricated] by some of the media outlets, which exaggerate and falsify some events. Thus, what is being broadcast [by the media] is different from what is happening. This is why we call on everyone to travel to Syria and see what is really happening on the ground, to stop speculating about the events in Syria.”
Asked about how Iran intends to deal with the new European sanctions that are supposed to be approved by European foreign ministers today [January 23, 2012] in Brussels, and which have been described as "unprecedented, given that they included [sanctions imposed by] the Central Bank and an embargo on Iranian oil," Roknabadi said, "thirty years ago, Iran had nothing and it was fully reliant on imports from the West. After [the revolution], we expelled 60,000 US advisers from Iran, cutting ties with the US and all of the [countries] which used to export goods and materials to us. Thirty years later, we reached an advanced stage in the fields of industry, science, technology and nuclear [energy] and we have actually become a nuclear country. Therefore, they should refrain from [threatening] us very much.”
Regarding the statement made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said that "time is running out and France will make a concerted effort to avoid military intervention in Iran, because [no intervention] can solve the problem, but will rather lead to war and chaos in the Middle East," Roknabadi said that "talking about an attack against Iran is pretty funny, and we are actually ready to respond to any strike, but I think that the status quo prevents them from waging war against Iran. They are only flexing their muscles, and are in fact contemplating an agreement.”
As to Saudi-Iranian relations after the US accused [Iran] of a bomb plot to kill Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, Roknabadi said, "after the visits made by Iran’s Intelligence Minister and Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia, we have established a framework to enhance cooperation between the two countries and face all of the schemes seeking to sow discord and division among Muslims on the one hand and between Muslims and Christians on the other.”
Roknabadi pointed out that the visit of Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to Beirut “will take place soon, God willing."