Assad’s Aleppo win through the lens of Iranian media

Iranian Diplomacy- Since 2001 and breakout of anti-Assad protests in Syria at the peak of the Arab Spring, Tehran has officially backed the Syrian government and openly provided military consultation to the Syrian army. The recent breakthrough in the military field and recapture of Aleppo will bolster Iran’s position that Bashar al-Assad must be part of the transition process.

This does not necessarily mean that reactions from Iranian media outlets are unanimous. Their responses hold up a mirror against the slightly different approaches adopted by political parties they are affiliated with and what their respective assessment of the new situation is.

On Wednesday, Iranian Principlists and their sympathizers celebrated either by offering free sweets on streets, taking to their social media accounts, or trolling advocates of diplomatic solutions. Perhaps assuming that it is too early to celebrate, moderate and Reformist media outlets have adopted a more cautious approach, sometimes trying to take no sides until the very end.

The official organ of Iranian administration, Iran daily, called the retaking of east of Aleppo an end to a five-year nightmare that devastated Syria’s most beautiful city. In an article headlined Cheers of Freedom in Aleppo, the newspaper said the victory of the Syrian army and allies of the Syrian government did not receive a warm welcome in the West over the fate of civilians.

Pro-Reform daily Etemad newspaper noted this diversity of updates in coverage of Aleppo developments. “Ninety-six percent, 98 percent, 99 percent, and probably finished. Two districts left, three left, and the last district retaken. Aleppo updates differ from one Syrian to another Russian media outlet, from an informed source in the city to another speaking to a Western outlet,” began the lede of Etemad’s story. Just as the deck reads, “One City, Two Narratives”, the article tried to take a conservative approach in tackling what Syrian state TV called the liberation of Aleppo. The article further discussed the blame game between Russia and the US over the failure to agree on a proposed ceasefire. Then it mentioned a report published by the International Crisis Group, which claimed Turkey refused Iran’s initiative to resolve the Syrian crisis back in September 2013.

A plan developed with the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force Qasem Soleimani yielded no result after several months of shuttle diplomacy, according to the report. “We agreed on every detail, except a clause in the final phase of the plan which called for UN-monitored elections. Turkish leaders wanted Assad barred …. I noted that this should not be a concern in an internationally-monitored election, particularly if, as Turkey holds, Assad has a dreadful record and a minority constituency. But Davutoğlu refused …, and our efforts came to naught,” the Crisis Group quoted Iran’s Javad Zarif.

In an article published in Hamshahri, which belongs to Tehran Municipality under the mayoralty of Principlist Mohammad-Bagher Qalibaf, Mohammad Karbasi wrote that the liberation of Aleppo could serve as an intro for complete control over northwest Syria. Aleppo reconquest “is not the purgation of a single city, but a bitter defeat for the Western-Arab axis, particularly the US and Turkey who have lost their main tool to implement their plans in Syria,” he added. Admitting that the development does not put an end to the civil war in Syria, the article said the Syrian army’s win would change the game in the Middle East. “Countries plotting to partition Syrian and change the regime have lost hope in pursuing their plans after the heavy blow in Aleppo to the groups they support,” the article asserted.

Hardliner Principlist media outlets went e to the lengths of a drawing a simile between the Syrian army’s recapture of Aleppo and the liberation of the Iranian strategic port of Khorramshahr during the eight-year Iraqi-imposed war in the 1980s, a turning point in that war which Iranians have proudly celebrated since 1982. In a pompous cover story that highlights popular celebrations in the war-stricken city contrasted with ‘messages of condolences’ exchanged among the terrorists of Jaish al-Fatah, Vatan Emrouz said the residents of Aleppo viewed the recapture as the prime of a spring just before the winter comes. “The anti-Syrian axis led by the US pulled every trick it had up its sleeves to sabotage the liberation process but it was defeated. Understanding this reality could broaden the message so far as to declare the end of US’ global hegemony.”

In Javan daily, affiliated with IRGC, Mohammad Babaei wrote that the outcome of the battle in Aleppo is not limited to Syria. “Almost all observers agree in that the result of the battle will open a new chapter in the Middle East which will be under Iran’s leadership,” he added.

In a habitual bold mockery aimed at advocates of nuclear deal who backed similar diplomatic solutions for the Syrian crisis, Kayhan’s front page read “Resistance Worked: US and KSA Taken down a Notch”. The daily hailed popular celebrations in Aleppo as ‘turning into dust’ years of propaganda by the foreign supporters of the terrorist groups.