In what has become a “tour for Syria”, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met President Assad in Damascus on Wednesday.
No significant news came out of the meeting, with Syrian media focusing on Assad’s denunciation of “terrorism” and its backers like Saudi Arabia and Iran’s outlets heralding Zarif’s “support for a political solution“.
Instead, it is the context of the discussion that points to significance: Zarif arrived in Syria after discussions in Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan. Perhaps most importantly, the Iranian Foreign Minister is in Russia today to talk to Assad’s other leading foreign backer.
[UPDATE: Iran’s State news agency IRNA is now carrying the first sound-bites from Zarif’s meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, with the two men hailing “collaboration and co-operation over regional issues”.]
Zarif’s tour is a surrogate for Iran’s participation in the international “peace” conference in Switzerland on January 22. Tehran’s attendance has been vetoed by the US, so Tehran is ensuring that its line is coordinated with Moscow, as well as trying to persuade Middle Eastern states — and Turkey, which Zarif visited earlier this month — to distance themselves from the Syrian opposition and insurgency.
There also is an important economic element to the mission. In the one important detail from Syria on Wednesday, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi referred to the “activation” of a $3.6 billion credit line from Iran to prop up Damascus amid the economic difficulties of the conflict.
Activist Tabarzadi Imprisoned Again
Activist Heshmatollah Tabarzadi has been arrested again.
Tabarazdi, a leader of protests in 1999, has spent several years in Iranian prisons. He was detained in December 2009 and sentenced the following October to nine years.
While on temporary leave from prison, on the condition of remaining silent, he called for a campaign against executions and for freeing of political prisoners. Shortly afterwards, on January 6,he was summoned back to prison. He refused, calling it “oppression and bullying” and instead chose “civil disobedience”.
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