Avoiding Civilian Losses in Idlib a Top Priority

Syrians fleeing attacks approach a camp in Kafr Lusin near the Turkish border in the northern part of rebel-held Idlib Province on September 9.Syrians fleeing attacks approach a camp in Kafr Lusin near the Turkish border in the northern part of rebel-held Idlib Province on September 9.

Iran's top priority in helping resolve the situation in Idlib Province, the last stronghold of rebels in war-torn Syria, is to help avoid and minimize civilian casualties and minimize human losses, says Tehran's former ambassador to the country.  

"The priority of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to help settle the Idlib crisis politically and minimize civilian casualties, and it will make the utmost effort to achieve this objective," Mohammad Reza Raouf-Sheibani told IRNA in an interview published on Monday.  

The government of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, has been preparing a major offensive to recover Idlib and adjacent areas to the northwest.  The city is said to be home to almost three million people including several hundred thousand from other parts of Syria fleeing war and insecurity

  Turkey Demand Denied    

The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday did not agree on a ceasefire that would forestall the planned assault in Idlib, which borders Turkey.

In a trilateral summit in Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin of Russia did not accept a call for a truce in the province by their Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said he feared a massacre and that Turkey could not accommodate any more Syrian refugees.

Raouf-Sheibani said the road to achieve a final solution to the protracted Syrian conflict depends on the situation in Idlib.

"If the Idlib issue is not settled, the Syrian crisis will not be solved and we will witness persistent crises in different parts of that country with various implications."

The former diplomat said the crisis in the opposition-held enclave is very complicated but will not become a "Gordian knot".  

  US Propaganda  

He dismissed the US propaganda campaign against the Syrian government's plans in the province, saying that it is baseless and only aims to boost the sinking morale of terrorist groups in the Arab state wracked by a seven-year-old civil war.  

"In addition to bolstering the morale of terrorist groups, [US President Donald] Trump is seeking to influence American public opinion and deflect attention away from his own enormous domestic problems," Raouf-Sheibani said.

  Trump's Warning  

Trump last week said the Syrian president, Iran and Russia should not "recklessly attack" Idlib.

"The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don't let that happen!" Trump wrote in a tweet, according to Reuters.

US officials claim Assad has approved the use of chlorine gas in the anticipated offensive, raising the prospects for a retaliatory US military strike.

Trump has threatened to order a massive attack against Assad if he carries out a “massacre” in Idlib, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Raouf-Sheibani said Washington's policy on Syria is beset by "confusion" and strongly influenced by the views of Israeli and Saudi rulers.  


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