Iran offers grim prediction on Syria conflict: Peace unlikely in 2013
BAGHDAD - Syria is unlikely to see peace in 2013 as the fighting in the strife-torn country edges closer to civil war, Iran's ambassador to Baghdad Hassan Danaie-Far said on Thursday.
In a grim assessment of nearly two years of conflict in Iraq's western neighbour, Danaie-Far said he believed that not all rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces can be called "terrorists," a term broadly used by the Syrian regime for insurgents.
"I believe it is far-fetched," he said when asked if he thought there could be peace in Syria this year.
"It is unlikely, but we have also noted there were some signals in the past one to two months," he added of remarks by UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi which he said Iran interpreted as marking the "end of the process of military options."
Tehran, a key ally of Damascus, has remained steadfast in its backing for Assad's regime since the Syrian uprising erupted in March 2011.
Speaking through an Iranian embassy Farsi-English translator, Danaie-Far said he believed the conflict, which the United Nations says has already left more than 60,000 people dead, "looks something like" a civil war.
"It is actually a combined form" of conflict, he said.
Specifically asked whether he believed some rebels had legitimate grievances, despite the regime branding them "terrorists," he said: "There are serious opponents and serious defenders and they are fighting together."
Danaie-Far said he did not believe that "anybody who objects (to) the Syrian government is a terrorist."
"They (rebels) have created the conditions where mercenary money and weaponry are injected into Syria."
The diplomat claimed that 70 percent of rebel-held territory was under the control of the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, which first gained notoriety for its suicide bombings in Syria.
The group has since evolved into a formidable fighting force leading attacks on battlefronts throughout the embattled country.
Its extremist tactics and suspected affiliation to the Al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq have landed it on the US list of foreign "terrorist" organisations.