The Iranian parliamentary delegation visiting Damascus Sunday, Sept. 1, advised Bashar Assad to move his chemical stockpile out of Syria and deposit it in Tehran under Iranian and Russian military supervision, to save himself from an American military strike, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and Iranian sources reveal.
Chairman of the Majlis Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ala-Eddin Borujerdi, who headed the delegation, explained that Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin had discussed the stockpile’s removal ad hoc, as the basis of a Iranian-Russian plan for presenting to US President Barack Obama at the G-20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg later this week.
After the Americans accept the plan and the crisis blows over, the stockpile could be quietly returned to Syria, the Iranian lawmaker explained.
Another option was for Iranian and Russian teams to destroy the stockpile in return for US-Arab League guarantees that the Syrian rebels would not use this process for strategic war gains. The chemical agents would be destroyed in stages in accordance with rebel compliance with such guarantees.
DEBKAfile’s military sources explain Tehran’s quest for a deal on two grounds: One - Iran supplied Syria with most of the formulae and substances for the manufacture of the poison agents and fears exposure if they fall into American hands.
Another is anxiety lest an American military strike on Syria’s chemical stores – if it is allowed to go through – would serve as a precedent or prequel for a similar attack on Iran’s nuclear assets.
Tehran is therefore willing to put on an amenable face and meet the United States half way on the disposal of Syria’s chemical arsenal. The offer would be presented as good for President Obama and let him give the American people the glad tidings that he had managed to defuse the Syrian chemical crisis by procuring a joint Iranian-Russian guarantee to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal. He could then call off an attack Syria with honor, or postpone it indefinitely to avoid disrupting the process of Syria’s chemical disarmament.
Both the Russians and the Iranians saw an opening for their plan in a phrase President Obama used in his surprise announcement Saturday night, Aug. 31 that he would ask Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria before going ahead. It was this: “…the Chairman [of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff] has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or a month from now.”
The Russian-Iranian plan would turn those words back on the US president by offering him guarantees that if he was not satisfied that Syria’s chemical stocks were gone - either by transfer to Iran or destroyed - he had left himself with time to play with for reverting to his military option.
The Iranian lawmakers told Assad that Tehran is not fully in the picture of the secret Russian-US dialogue on Syria, but Tehran had reason to believe that the Russians had put out feelers to the Americans on the proposition and were not initially turned down.
Russian and Iranian intelligence experts on US politics expect Obama’s limited offensive plan for Syria to run into major obstacles in Congress. They hope the opposition will find added support for its counter-arguments in the Iranian-Russian proposition. And even if it is eventually turned down, the deliberations on its pros and cons would buy time for the Syrian ruler's war effort.
The Iranian parliamentary delegation also included Javad Karimi Qodusi and Fath-o-Allah Hosseini, two other prominent members of the Majlis foreign affairs panel.