By: Salami Keyvan
Changes in various apparatuses and ministries are a common issue in all governments. However, on many occasions these changes reflect a shift in policy or a new heading. The recent sacking of Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for the Arab-African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdullahian has raised eyebrows and been evaluated as a policy alteration by Iran regarding its approach vis-à-vis Syria.
It is worth noting that this move was in the making for some time now, and we now have to evaluate why this sacking has come at such a timing. These changes usually resemble, significant behind-the-curtain decisions. If we take a look at the media outlets loyal to the fraction of Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei it becomes crystal clear that this new change is completely related to and in line with Iran’s political changes in Syria.
News from inside Iran has reached a major decision point regarding Syria.
“At a time when… maybe for the first time diplomatic discussions regarding Syria… has become serious… we are witnessing the sacking of Abdullahian from his post,” a state website wrote on June 20th.
So the issue is about Syria.
Now, who was Abdullahian? The same state website writes, “Until he was in office… [Abdullahian] was a strong advocate of Iran supporting the resistance front in the region…”
Thus, Iran has sacked a figure who supported the regime’s comprehensive meddling in Syria. When we take a look at the news of the past few weeks inside Iranian media on recent developments in the Levant, a canvas is depicted clearly portraying this policy shift imposed on Tehran over Syria.
“If the people don’t want Bashar Assad, we don’t have any problem with that,” said Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani on June 4th.
On June 14th Khamenei himself delivered a speech reflecting the various crises his regime is facing, and even used the term “endless degrading.” However, he said absolutely nothing about Syria.
On June 15th, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that he believes their talks reflected how a solution is at hand (meaning a political power transition in Syria). One June 18th the media published various news reports and analysis citing Zarif saying Iran has changed its policy on Syria… and is ready to show more flexibility on how to address the issue of Bashar Assad.
So we have a chain reaction before us, and the sacking of Abdullahian is one ring. This shows how Tehran has reached a point of succumbing to an agreement similar to the nuclear deal, dubbed “JCPOA 1” by various regime officials.
Is Khamenei in line with this new shift in policy, getting for “JCPOA 2 and 3”?
Has Khamenei reached a point of making a major decision on Syria, as he did back in June 2015 on the nuclear dossier?
The status quo inside Iran and across the region has left no choice for Tehran other than continuing to tolerate the setbacks. And rest assured such a decision was very difficult for Khamenei, as it places a major “to be or not be” on the table.
The fact that Abdullahian had not been sacked in the past few months shows the decision needed a green light from Khamenei. With such an approval, one can reach a conclusion that Khamenei has also given a green light for a major shift, sooner or later, on the Syria dossier.
Khamenei himself back in February described the consequences of withdrawing from Syria. “If we were not involved in this struggle… the enemy would have come inside our own borders… and we would have to be fighting them off in our own cities and provinces…”
Follow Keyvav on @SalamiKeyvan