Iran envoy offers security assistance to Lebanon

Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali said the rise of ISIS is linked to certain parties being harmed by the results of the elections in Syria and Iraq.

al-monitor Lebanese army vehicles travel toward Tfail village in the Bekaa Valley, April 22, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Ahmad Shalha.


syria, lebanon, israel, iraq, iran, hezbollah, army

يول 1, 2014

The new Iranian ambassador in Lebanon, Mohammad Fathali, renewed, through As-Safir, Iran’s permanent offer to the Lebanese army and all Lebanese security services without exception that his country is willing to provide them with the weapons, equipment and training that is required by technicians and specialists to fight terrorism.

Fathali told As-Safir in his first press interview since coming to Lebanon a month ago, “Since the first moment, we have declared our readiness to cooperate fully with the military at the highest levels and with all Lebanese [security] organs. We have announced this intention to the Lebanese side and we have put no conditions for this cooperation, unlike some states that said that they agree to provide the Lebanese army with weapons provided they are not used against the Zionist enemy.”

He indicated that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has a long experience in the field of counterterrorism.” He also pointed out that “the fight against terrorism is a collective action. And states must come together in this area. What ISIS and other terrorist organizations in the region are doing not only serves the Zionist entity but also ignites strife and infighting among Muslims.”

Fathali, who was interviewed at the headquarters of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, served as ambassador to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and returned to the central administration in the Iranian Foreign Ministry to work, in the past six years, as head of the Department of Strategic Affairs and as special assistant on strategic affairs to the minister of foreign affairs, focusing on Middle East developments. He worked with three foreign ministers: Manouchehr Mottaki, Ali Akbar Salehi and finally Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Lebanon occupies a prominent place in this region in relation to Iran,” said Fathali, who spoke Persian despite his knowledge of Arabic. On the security deterioration that coincided with his coming to Lebanon, he said that “regional developments have entered a more delicate phase. The countries in the region should [think wisely] more than ever before. If every country in the region [highlights its talents] then there’s no doubt that they will reap positive results in the future.”

The terrorism of ISIS

Do regional countries have an interest in tensing up the situation? Fathali answered, “We must properly characterize the important developments that are happening, and [we must properly characterize] the parties that think they won and those that think were harmed. I don’t want to name the countries in order to approach matters with professionalism and experience. A presidential election was held in Syria. The people gave their opinion. Afterward, parliamentary elections were held in Iraq. The Iraqi people voted freely and fairly. So why is it that days after the election results were announced, an organization like ISIS became active on the Iraqi arena and made such wide-ranging military movements? ... I think that if we studied these developments and their results, we would realize that a certain party was harmed by the developments.”

He was asked if he meant Saudi Arabia, which was unable to change Nouri al-Maliki or prevent [Syrian president] Bashar al-Assad’s re-election, and whether Lebanon is paying the price of the Saudi-Iranian dispute?

He said, “I prefer not to approach the subject from this angle. I prefer to say that an organization called ISIS has entered the arena. Let’s evaluate the matter from another angle in order to show ISIS’s effects on the pace of regional developments and to use this approach as a clear way through which we reveal the facts. I think that any dispute that may arise among countries belonging to the Persian Gulf region or the Middle East serves the Zionist entity.”

Asked whether there were fears that the Iranian Embassy would be hit again, he said, “Based on the established principle that I mentioned, I think that some people cannot withstand joining the democratic game openly and soundly. It is natural that when a party does such an evil act by targeting diplomatic centers and killing innocent people, it carries a particular message and shows that [this party] is unable to be part of a democratic game that is governed transparent messages. We really hope that these things don’t happen again in brotherly Lebanon.”

Lebanon has reached the maturity stage

Would a regional understanding between Iran and Saudi Arabia ease the way for Lebanon’s presidential election?

Fathali took the matter from another angle and said, “I think that the presidential election is a purely Lebanese matter. We believe that no party should interfere in this process.”

On Hezbollah’s position, he said, “Hezbollah is a Lebanese organization that belongs to the Resistance Front. [Hezbollah] is a legitimate political current that works on the Lebanese scene. And of course, when there’s political [contest], all political currents should give their opinion in it.”

He added, “I think that Lebanon, in its parties, sects, and political currents, has already reached the stage of political maturity in order to make decisions concerning itself. When we look at the developments in Lebanon, we notice that Hezbollah is practicing politics in the Lebanese arena in a fair and equitable manner.”

On how a possible Iranian-American final agreement on the nuclear issue on July 20 would affect Hezbollah, he said, “The negotiations are continuing intensely. And we are serious about them. And of course, the Islamic Republic has sought to confront the bullying that others are trying to exercise [on Iran]. We believe that our negotiations with the West should be based on international law. We have shown the general framework of the negotiations since the beginning of the road and we have delineated the negotiations on the nuclear issue. We believe that, through this framework, we should move forward with the negotiations. There is some back-and-forth. But we are continuing [the negotiations]. Regarding whether they will continue past July 20, [we will see].”

He added, “I really don’t know what is the link between the nuclear negotiations and Hezbollah. Why attribute everything to the party? Hezbollah is simply a political party that is active on the Lebanese arena and has a distinctive political activity. It made an achievement for Lebanon in the general resistance framework, and it has a very important role. And the Islamic Republic of Iran supports this trend. Of course, Hezbollah has its own frameworks because it is in Lebanon and we are in Iran. ... Hezbollah, in fact, is a deeply rooted party in Lebanese political life. We have solid principles that any party, regardless of its sect, that confronts the usurping and occupying Zionist enemy will get Iranian support. In the explicit words of the highest Iranian marja [reference], the Zionist entity is a cancerous tumor. And of course there is a humanitarian and Islamic duty to support any party that is trying to confront this tumor.”

Fathali served under both Ahmadinejad and Rouhani. About the difference in approaches between the two toward Syria and Saudi Arabia, he said, “Our foreign policy is based on solid principles, and so the general framework is based on those established principles. In the three decades of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its solid principles have not changed with regard to the position toward the Zionist entity and in confronting extremism. Dr. Hassan Rouhani is considered one of the innovators in advocating the confrontation of the phenomena of violence, extremism, and terrorism. He proposed the idea from the platform of the United Nations, which adopted it. That’s why I say that Iran has solid principles.”

The Syrian file

On how Iran approaches the Syrian file, he said, “This falls under our fixed principles. Syria belongs to the fabric of the resistance. Comparing how former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dealt with Syria and how current President Sheikh Hassan Rouhani is dealing with this country reveals no differences. Dr. [Ahmadinejad] applied the fixed principles and ideals. And so is Sheikh Rouhani. Perhaps [different] Iranian presidents see Iran’s internal affairs [differently], but there is complete consensus of views in relation to the principles and foundations of Iranian foreign policy.”

Regarding what happened with the dialogue with Saudi Arabia and Iran’s conditions for its success, Fathla said, “We believe that we share ties of respect and good neighborliness, and Saudi Arabia comes in this framework. The contacts are ongoing. And [Iran’s] leaders and officials believe that there should be a comprehensive view for all the countries in the region. Relations with Saudi Arabia are part of this general framework. Our relations with them exist. And we hope that all the countries of the Middle East and of the Persian Gulf can cooperate in a sound way to uproot terrorist organizations like ISIS. We oppose any foreign intervention, particularly American, in Iraq, because [the Americans] are seeking to overturn the results of the recent Iraqi elections in order to serve the Zionist enemy. We adhere to any figure who is elected by the people in a free and sound atmosphere.”

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