OPINION: Why Iran celebrates ‘winning’ Aleppo

Iran is expanding a specific narrative of the Syrian war that serves Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions, writes Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
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Earlier this week, Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Moscow in order to discuss Syria’s nearly six-year war. Iranian leaders appeared determined to exclude other regional and global powers from the gathering.

This highlights Iran’s intention to direct the Syrian conflict into a direction that precisely meets their geopolitical, strategic and regional hegemonic ambitions. It also shows that Iran believes it holds the upper hand mainly due to the reluctance of Obama’s administration and other major powers to challenge Tehran. Iran also believes the situation in Syria is in its favor.

In addition to attempting to direct the conflict in a path that serves its geopolitical interests, Iran is fabricating and expanding a specific narrative of the Syrian war that clearly serves Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions. For example, Iranian leaders and the majority of Persian–language newspapers in the Islamic Republic, across the board, including hard-line or moderates, are thrilled to celebrate their staunchest ally, Assad’s “victory” in Aleppo.

Iran has totally fabricated the reality and created its own narrative of the situation in Aleppo. A narrative that does not holds any grieve or any glimpse of reality to the tragic condition of the people in Aleppo. It is a narrative that only holds incomprehensible and shameful celebrations, jubilations and joy. It is a narrative that only meets the egocentric interests of Iranian leaders as well as their regional hegemonic ambitions.

The front page of several major newspapers including Keyhan, in which its editor in chief is a close advisor to the Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, carried headlines such as “Aleppo is liberated”. Iranian leaders and news outlets went on discuss the benefits of recapturing of Aleppo. Iranian President Hassan Rowhani has also congratulated Syrian President Bashar Assad on the victory in Aleppo.

Iran did not mention anything about many innocent people who were brutally murdered. Iran did not mention how Assad forces with the assistance of Iran, shelled bombs indiscriminately on neighborhoods, families, children, and women, as well as went door to door shooting people to death, and killed children in schools – a situation that is described by the United Nations as a “complete meltdown of humanity.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Bilal, a Marja neighborhood resident in eastern Aleppo, said the situation has become desperate “Massacres are happening and the world is watching. Everything is out of service now. The water has been cut and the hospitals are all bombed and all the bakeries too. Food items are really expensive, flour is about $20 a kilo, sugar is $13 a kilo. Bread is rationed to only five slices per family. There are no vegetables anymore and no medicine and there is no fuel for cars. We are moving injured people using carts.”

To end Iran’s support for Assad’s atrocities, the international communities and regional nations need to cooperate, create a coalition and impose economic and political pressure on Tehran

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The United Nations characterized the humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo as “catastrophic,” and Ammar al-Salmo, leader of the Syrian civil defense in Aleppo, told VICE News that “the situation on the ground is catastrophic. Every moment is worse than before. Right now there are 100,000 civilians trapped in 3-5 square kilometers – the remaining part of the besieged areas. Everything has stopped except the shelling, except the starving, except the cold of the winter and the fear and the terror. Everything has stopped.”

Iran did not point to what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights mentioned, that “real massacres” were happening and that how people’s bodies lie in the streets and others were horrified to go out and collect and bury the bodies.

Iran hid the fact stated by the UNICEF, which slammed the Syrian government for creating a “living nightmare” on the children in the city. UNICEF reported that 96 children had so far died and more than 223 were injured in the bombings. UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth said “There are no words left to describe the suffering they are experiencing,”

In other words, Iran is celebrating a war crime, the worst humanitarian tragedy of our generation. UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien called what was happening in Aleppo “our generation’s shame”. He stated, “If you don’t take action, there will be no Syrian peoples or Syria to save – that will be this council’s legacy, our generation’s shame.”

The UN official condemned the deaths of children at a school with the UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake pointing out that “this is a tragedy. It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime…This latest atrocity may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago.”

Iran complicit in crimes

It is crucial to point out to the critical role that Iran, primarily the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has played in supporting Assad forces. If it was not for the longstanding and ongoing military, financial, advisory, and intelligence support that Iranian leaders provide to Assad forces, the Syrian forces would have not survived and committed such crimes.

It is also worth noting that there is no difference between moderates, reformists, and hardliners across Iran’s political spectrum when it comes to assisting Assad to commit such acts.

To end Iran’s support for Assad’s atrocities, the international communities and regional nations need to cooperate, create a coalition and impose economic and political pressure on Tehran. Business corporations also need to recalculate their priorities when it comes to investing in Iran.

In the long term, as Martin Luther King Jr, stated “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” And, it is not in the interests of any player to be on the wrong side history when it comes to these heinous crimes.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard University scholar, is president of the International American Council. Rafizadeh serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. He is also a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. Rafizadeh served as a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC. He has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at [email protected], @Dr_Rafizadeh.

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