In a January 10, 2020 report in the Lebanese daily Al-Jumhouriyya, journalist 'Imad Marmel presented statements by Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, who harshly criticized the U.S. policy in Syria and Iraq, including the assassination of IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
Zasypkin described the assassination of Soleimani, who he said cooperated with Russia in fighting terror and was greatly esteemed by the Russians, as a "crime" and a disproportional response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. He added that the Iranian response to the assassination, on the other hand, was prudent and that Iran therefore couldn't be blamed for escalating the tension, especially since the U.S. is the one that withdrew from the nuclear deal in the first place. The U.S. plays a negative role in the region and should pull its forces from Syria and Iraq, he concluded.
The ambassador also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently visited Damascus and discussed the Iran-U.S. tension with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and that the visit was meant to convey that the alliance between Russia and Syria is solid and that the two countries will continue their joint fight against terror.
Alexander Zasypkin (Source: Al-Jumhouriyya)
The following are excerpts from the Al-Jumhouriyya report:
The Attack On The Embassy Did Not Justify A Response Of This Magnitude
"Amid the growing pressure on the U.S. presence and interests in the region, in the wake of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, it seems that Russia is the main beneficiary in the current situation, which may cause its 'rivals' in the region to face difficult trials.
"Regardless of the results on the ground of Iran's military response to the attack on the IRGC Qods Force commander, the important point, as far as Iran and its allies are concerned, is the strategic significance of this response, which launched a war of attrition against the U.S. forces. [This war] will probably last until the [U.S.] presidential elections, so that Donald Trump will arrive at the elections weary and exhausted and will have difficulty winning them.
"It is at this complex juncture in the region that Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, for a meeting that received several [different] interpretations in terms of [its significance for] the Russian moves in the region at this [particular] political timing.
"Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin told Al-Jumhouriyya that Putin's recent visit to Damascus was very important in light of the unusual circumstances in the region, whether this refers to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani or to the situation in Syria. He noted further that the visit also 'reflected the relations between Russia and Syria and between Presidents Putin and Assad, and conveyed a message to all that their alliance was solid and forms a point of strength.' He added that during the meeting between Putin and Assad, 'emphasis was placed on the continued struggle against terror and on improving the economic and humanitarian situation in Syria. There was also an assessment of the latest developments in the region and especially the criminal assassination of Qassem Soleimani and his companions.'
"The Russian ambassador stressed the gravity of the American actions: 'It is important to note the outrageous [nature of] the assassination itself and not to try to justify it or link it to anything else. There is need to focus on the crime of targeting Soleimani and his companions, and not to seek mitigating reasons by inflating the scope of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, as was done in the West. The attack on the embassy clearly does not justify a response of this magnitude, [that is,] killing Soleimani and the others.'"
"Soleimani Was Our Comrade And Friend, A Unique Man Whom We Greatly Esteemed"
"Stressing that the criminal assassination was utterly condemnable, Zasypkin said, 'America's considerations do not interest us, for they are the ones responsible.' He noted [further]: 'Soleimani was our comrade and friend, a unique man whom we greatly esteemed. We cooperated with him in the war against terror, and his assassination caused us great sorrow.'
"According to Zasypkin, Iran's response to the American aggression was prudent. [He added:] 'In principle, we are against the outbreak of wars, and we hope that we prevented the outbreak of a war today, although we know who is responsible for the escalation of the danger and know that the ones who withdrew from the nuclear deal and initiated the assassination of Soleimani and the others are responsible for the increase in tension.'"
The U.S. Plays A Negative Role In The Region, Must Withdraw From Iraq, Syria
"[The ambassador] said further that some positions in the West try to point [the finger] at Iran alone and to accuse it of starting the escalation, 'when [in fact] it was America that initiated the moves that escalated the tension, whether it did so by political means, [i.e., by] evading the nuclear deal, or through actions on the ground, such as the recent escapade [of killing Soleimani].'
"Zasypkin believes that the U.S. presence in the region faces greater difficulties today, after the assassination of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis. [He said]': '...The U.S. presence in Syria is completely illegal and they must leave. As for Iraq, they entered it as occupiers to begin with, and the position taken recently by the Iraqi parliament [demanding a U.S. withdrawal from the country] is very significant.'
"The Russian ambassador noted that one of the main factors that has caused the demand for a U.S. withdrawal from the region to be explicitly expressed today is the negative role that the U.S. has consistently played in the Middle East. 'While we strive to find solutions to the crises, they take the path of obstruction and delay'..."