‘Cease-Fire’ in Russian, Arabic and Farsi
As the ostensible cease-fire deal agreed upon during a security conference in Munich last week was supposed to take effect in Syria a few days from now, some 50 civilians were killed Monday in Russian airstrikes on two medical facilities.
This kind of deadly paradox is par for the course in the Middle East, particularly when none of the parties involved actually signed any agreement about what European brokers called a “cessation of hostilities.”
Russia, for example, which has been fighting ferociously to rescue the regime of Syrian dictator President Bashar Assad, announced that such a “cessation” would not apply to its bombing of opposition targets.
Assad echoed this in a televised address on Monday, saying that a cease-fire would not include a halt to the use of weapons by the warring parties. No, he explained, the real aim of a “cessation of hostilities” would be to prevent his enemies “from strengthening their positions. Movement of weapons, equipment or terrorists, or fortification of positions, will not be allowed.”
Hmm. Talk about giving new meaning — opposite, in fact — to a universally accepted term. No wonder Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon expressed his “skepticism” on Sunday about the proposed deal to calm tensions between Damascus and Sunni fighters. He knows the neighborhood and its gangs quite well, after all.
Funny Russian and Arabic translations aside, however, the real knee-slapping comedy routine about Syria was performed Monday by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is always on the ready to provide a good guffaw, no matter how many people are slaughtered in his region and beyond.
Zarif, Tehran’s chief negotiator during the talks that led to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, met with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on Monday to discuss “cooperation” on tackling issues like drug trafficking, terrorism and human rights.
As the greatest sponsor of global terrorism — which frequently involves smuggling narcotics — and as a key violator of human rights, Iran nevertheless considers it perfectly reasonable to claim it is working to combat one and rectify the other. Apparently Farsi, too, enables broad interpretations of internationally accepted concepts.
But this is old material. The really hilarious bit came after Zarif’s talk with Mogherini, when the Iranian official gave his country’s take on Syria.
Like Russia, Iran is backing Assad in the civil war that has been raging for the last five years. It has also been growing increasingly chummy with Moscow.
“There has to be a general recognition by all participants that there is no military solution [to the conflict in Syria]. I do not believe that that understanding has sunk in,” Zarif told reporters, keeping a straight face, even though Iran has been sending fighters to Syria on Assad’s behalf to partake in mass murder, and his country’s military continues to test sophisticated ballistic missiles on which to attack nuclear warheads when they are perfected.
He also referred to the so-called cease-fire, which he said should be “a cessation of hostilities, not a pause.” But he explained this in an amusing way, warning that countries “cannot use diplomacy in order to provide a human shield for” extremists, such as those terrorist groups, like Islamic State, who are battling Assad for complete control over Syria.
So first he said there is no military solution, and then that diplomacy is bad, too.
“It is essential for our neighbors to understand the realities, pay attention to them and set aside the illusions and accept the Syrian people’s demand and stop making decision for the Syrians,” he said.
What Zarif meant, and pulled off in his customary jaw-dropping nervy way, was that Iran deserves to have a stronghold over the Syrian people by making Assad its puppet, and that all factions with a different agenda have to be forced by the West to surrender unconditionally.
“Diplomacy,” in his view, would be a Western manipulation to “shield” those factions.
After wiping the tears of laughter from our cheeks, we can begin crying over the fact that this was exactly how Zarif, representing Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, lay down the law with the United States and other members of the P5+1 to extract a nuclear deal favoring only Iran.
Ruthie Blum is the web editor of The Algemeiner.