Iran’s red line on #Syria: how red is it?

Iran has set red line for its Syria policy. According to Reuters:

A top advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader on Sunday said the future of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could only be determined by the Syrian people and this was a “red line” for Tehran.

In other words: hands off US, France and even Russia, Assad is here to stay until the people of Syria (ie. Assad’s supporters) decide he has to go.

Just how red is this red line? What I am trying to ask is: is this just a maximalist negotiation position which Iran has adopted in order to boost its hand in the Syria negotiations, or does Iran really mean what it says? That there is no way it would be willing to compromise on this issue.

When it comes to Iran, red lines and negotiations, recent history has some interesting examples.

On June 23rd this year, 3 weeks before the historic Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s supreme leader set 3 very public red lines for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. They were:

The first red line is regarding time limitations. During his June 23 speech Khamenei condemned limitation time lines of 10 and 12 years demanded from Iran in the agreement. “Ten years is a lifetime,” stated the supreme leader in his speech, which his official website titled “the most important red lines of the nuclear negotiations.” Later on in the same speech, Khamenei also said that timelines of 15 years and 25 years are unacceptable as well.

The second stated red line that has been crossed regards the inspection of military sites, which Khamenei ruled out in the same speech. From the deal we can see that inspections of military sites by the IAEA are included in the deal.

The third crossed red line has to do with the issue of sanctions. On June 23, Ayatollah Khamenei explicitly ruled out the removal of sanctions being conditional upon Iran first having to reduce its number of centrifuges and wrecking the core of the Arak reactor and sanctions being removed once the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has lived up to its commitments. He instead called for a more reciprocal quid pro quo between two sides of corresponding steps that take place simultaneously.

And what happened? all three red lines were crossed in the final agreement, with Khamenei’s own permission. 

Conclusion? Everything is up for negotiation in Syria, except Iran retaining the right in a future Syria to have secure access from Damascus airport to Hezbollah bases in Lebanon, so that it can continue to supply weapons to Hezbollah. This is one red line which in my opinion Iran will be unwilling to cross. The reddest of all red lines.