End the Iranian occupation of Syria

Last week, the Middle East Institute hosted Faoud Hamdan, Founder and Executive Director, Rule of Law Foundation and the head of Naame Shaam, a project dedicated to researching Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict. Since its launch early this year, the organization has been involved in a number of initiatives such as a peaceful protests in European cities where Iranian officials and ministers have conducted meetings, an open letter to the Syrian opposition, as well as producing in-depth reports and analysis on Iran’s military and economic role in fuelling the war in Syria.

One of their most in-depth reports, “Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force,” provides

numerous examples and case studies of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Syria by Iranian controlled militias and forces.

This report finds Iranian involvement in the ‘crisis cell’ assassination in July 2012 in which 6 of Bashar al-Assad’s highest-ranking members were killed. In addition, the report claims the Ghouta chemical massacre near Damascus in August 2013 involved the Iranians.

The Naame Shaam report also concludes that Iran is an occupying force in Syria. It presents legal arguments for addressing the war in Syria as an “international conflict that involves a foreign occupation…as defined by the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.”  Other key findings in the report suggest that the influence of the Iranian regime will endure past the fall of Assad due to “Iranian-backed and controlled militias fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime, including Hezbollah Lebanon and various Iraqi Shiah militia.”

The question remains of the rational for Iran’s heavy involvement in Syria. Naame Shaam asseses that there motivation is driven

first and foremost by the strategic interests of the Iranian regime in keeping shipments flowing to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria, so as to keep Hezbollah a strong deterrent against any attack on Iran’s military nuclear program.

According to the report, the Iranian regime has also been providing the Syrian regime with “financial loans and credit lines worth billions of dollars.” Without Iran’s military and financial support, Naame Shaam claims the Assad regime would already have collapsed.

The Naame Shaam conclusions are far reaching:

  1. Iran should be held responsible for “complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity”
  2. No lifting of economic sanctions
  3. No extension of nuclear negotiations

In addition, the United States and the European Union

  1. should “demand that the Iranian regime orders Hezbollah Lebanon to disband and integrate into the Lebanese army”
  2. work to end the conflict in Syria by supporting moderate Syrian rebels
  3. should give the Iranian regime a “clear ultimatum” to pull “Sepah Pasdaran, Hezbollah Lebanon and other foot soldiers out of Syria.”
  4. put forth a UN Security Council Resolution under Chapter VII “imposing safe and unhindered humanitarian access to conflict zones and people in need throughout Syria.”

In case of a veto by China and Russia, the US and EU as well as their allies should “act unilaterally by securing areas held by the moderate Syrian opposition, imposing no-fly zones.”

Naame Shaam wants the international community to halt the role of Iranian influence and occupation inside Syria.

The full report is available here.

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