“The majority of Syrians support Assad”

General Ali shamhani (Ali Shamkhani), Secretary of the Supreme security Council of Iran — a key figure in Iran’s foreign policy. In an interview with Le Monde (Monde) in Tehran, he talks about the recent U.S. attack against Bashar al-Assad and long-term commitments of his country to Syria.

— After U.S. strikes on Syria on April 7 are you not afraid that the American intervention in the middle East will become more active?

— U.S. President Donald trump was elected, criticizing the wars that America waged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the price for them had to pay. Today, US allies in the region want America more and more bogged down in this conflict. It remains to know, whether will repeat the Americans their mistakes. However, America and its allies for interfering in Syria politics for six years — this is nothing new. These attacks and the direct involvement of Washington will not change the situation.

— This attack was a reaction to the chemical attack on the village of Khan shaykhun controlled by the opposition. The United States accused in this attack, Damascus-your ally. What do you think about the chemical attacks?

— At the front I witnessed chemical attacks against Iranian troops during the war Iran-Iraq (1980-1988). European countries supplied chemical weapons to Iraq so far and not admitting it. Iran considers the production, storage and use of these weapons, no matter by whom and in what quantity, as the unpardonable sin.

We also believe it is unlikely that Damascus would commit this attack in Khan Sheyhun. We demand an independent investigation. And we condemn the US attacks under the pretext that America cannot be both judge and jury.

— The use of chemical weapons Damascus has been repeatedly documented. Have you discussed this with his ally?

— Both sides were accused of using chemical weapons during this war. But the Syrian government was expected to destroy its Arsenal in 2013, and the Organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons confirmed the destruction.

— Relations between Russia, which is your ally and the United States are now at the lowest level. It is in your best interests?

— Our relations with Russia do not depend on relations between Moscow and Washington. We have with Russia a common border in the Caspian sea. We had relations before the 1979 revolution, now we are cooperating in the nuclear field, in the field of tourism and this cooperation will increase, while there will be terrorists, pushed some countries in the region.

— Russia seems less interested than you in supporting Assad in power. You are afraid that Moscow can impose a political solution that does not suit you?

— The presence in power of Bashar al-Assad not depend on foreign intervention. The majority of the population supports Assad, and the Syrians themselves will determine the fate of their country. The rumors you are talking about, spread by the Western countries and the Iranian liberals. But we are not afraid and Assad too.

— Iran supports the Astana talks together with Russia and Turkey. But you seem more concerned with war than diplomacy…

In Geneva we push the Syrian government and the opposition to the talks under the UN auspices. In Astana it is about ensuring a stable peace, which is the first step towards the implementation of the political process. In Syria there is no military solution.

But Bashar al-Assad says it intends to win back the entire country…

— He wants to fight terrorism. ISIS, al-Qaeda (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — ed.) and its allies in control of the territory. We cannot allow the at least one Syrian village remained in their hands. The terrorist group went to talks in Astana after the defeat in Aleppo: no impact on the country negotiations impossible.

— You still think “terrorist” the armed opposition which is involved in the negotiations in Astana?

The situation can be divided into “before” and “after the” liberation of Aleppo. They retreated when he was convinced of their defeat. If they cease to fight, if they stopped the supply of weapons from abroad if they cut ties with “al-Qaeda”, and put forward political demands, we will not consider them terrorists. The same applies to the US and Europe: two years ago they put the first condition of negotiations, the departure of Bashar al-Assad from power. It was a strategic mistake and they refused it.

— Iran has agreed with Qatar to evacuate four Shiite and Sunni villages that are deposited, respectively, the rebels and the regime. Some fear the partition of Syrian territory on the basis of religion…

— We are not the first year fighting to save an embattled population. Evacuation of, by the way, is not the best way, and in the attack on 15 April killed more than 120 people. This is not a section but a temporary solution, and I don’t think it can find application in other areas.

— Part of the Iranian government’s well-received election of Donald trump. She was counting on a “deal” with the businessman. This calculation still valid?

In the middle East we have no need nor desire to negotiate with the United States. But we do not aspire and to tension, which would be a blow to regional stability.

— The us government announced that is not going to undo the gains made in July 2015 the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. But do you not fear that it may impose new sanctions?

— In accordance with the will of the Supreme leader Ali Khamenei Iran is developing “economy of resistance” drawing on national resources. We are well aware that the US is waging against us an economic war, but they have to deal with the new situation. European governments don’t want to follow them. We encourage them to support companies to invest in Iran. We have natural resources, including gas, which would allow Europe to diversify its energy supply.