Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, on 27SEP15 at the United Nations
According to Reuters:
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday fighting radical militants like Islamic State in Syria is the top priority and if they are to be defeated then President Bashar al-Assad's government "can't be weakened."
"This does not mean that the Syrian government does not need reform ... Of course it does," Rouhani told an audience of U.S. think-tanks and journalists on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, but he added that the removal of his ally Assad would turn Syria into an extremist safe haven.
Discussions of political reform in Syria should come after the threat of extremism in Syria has been removed.
Referring to air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition on Islamic State targets in Syria, Rouhani said defeating the militants was "not feasible through air operations only." He said Russia "is ready to fight terrorism" and shares the same desire to defeat the threat of Islamic State.
"If the priority is not to defeat terrorism, we are making a big mistake," Rouhani said.
He added that Russia's and Iran's positions on Syria were "almost identical."
Failing to address the problem of Islamic State properly and forcing out the government would result in the group taking control of Damascus, Rouhani said.COMMENTARY: There is an unverified indication suggesting Iraq's Abadi government may have instituted denial of Russian supply aircraft traversing Iraqi airspace, bound for Syria.
The Rouhani administration perception of the American priority for the Syrian conflict remains regime change in Syria, rather than the defeat of ISIL and Al-Qaeda.
Iran's military and conservative establishment advance the perception still further, accusing the United States of outright support of ISIL and Al-Qaeda, which is something of a parallel track of accusation to that of United States charges levied against Iran for harboring and releasing five senior members of Al Qaeda earlier this year, including the man who stepped in to serve as the terrorist group’s interim leader immediately after Osama bin Laden’s death.
The beneficiaries to this lack of a unified international front remain ISIL and Al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, IRNA reports Rouhani will cut short his visit to New York and return to Tehran for the funeral of Iranians killed in the haj tragedy in Saudi Arabia.
Photos: Islamic Republic News Agency