print
memri
July 9, 1999 No.
39

Iran’s Ambassador to Syria on Israel-Syria Negotiations

Hussein Sheik Al-Islam, the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus, stated to the London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat on July 9, 1999, that Iran supports Syria in its attempts to renew peace negotiations in order to retrieve the occupied Golan. The Iranian Ambassador noted that Israel would be forced to withdraw because of its casualties in Southern Lebanon, due to Hizbullah's operations. He further emphasized that Hizbullah would continue its operation after the renewal of the negotiations.

Ambassador Sheik Al-Islam predicted that "Israel would cease to exist within fifty years" and that the conflict between the Hebrew State and the Arab countries, "would not come to an end with the signing of peace agreements because we want all of Palestine and Jerusalem."

The Ambassador was asked about Iran's position regarding the latest "signals" between Damascus and Tel Aviv of "renewing negotiation as soon as possible." His answer was: "We support Syria in retrieving its rights and the Golan Heights, or any occupied Arab land. Furthermore, we and the Syrians want more than that; we want the retrieval of all of Palestine and Jerusalem." He said he expected that the parties would resume negotiations "soon" and that there would be "great achievements before the American President engages in the 2000 elections, because Clinton will exercise pressure to reach a peace agreement."

Answering another question, the Iranian Ambassador said, "the positive Syrian signals aim, among other things, at evading American pressure, due to the momentum that Barak brought with him, as a so-called man of peace."

He also stated that Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon "means an admission of two defeats: the first, is a military defeat, caused by the operations of the Islamic Resistance [i.e. Hizbullah]; the second, is an admission of a political defeat, because Israel is forced to withdraw from the Golan as a result of its casualties in Southern Lebanon."

Regarding the future of Hizbullah after the signing of peace agreements, the Iranian Ambassador to Syria said that Hizbullah, "has several roles: military, political, and security. Achieving a peace settlement - rather than peace - means that Hizbullah would continue to play a political role in Lebanon. More important than that, Hizbullah will activate its security and intelligence capabilities, otherwise, why would its leadership expend all of its efforts and resources to increase these capabilities?"

Ambassador Sheik Al-Islam was asked whether Hizbullah would stop its operations according to Barak's request "to build up trust for withdrawal from South Lebanon." His answer was: "the relevant parties--Syria, Lebanon, and Iran--are smarter and to experienced to do that, because continuing the operations will pressure Israel to withdraw. I expect the operations to continue after the resumption of the peace talks."