Speaking today in an interview on Portuguese television, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to end his military crackdown on protesters, insisting “a military solution in never the right solution.”
Though Iran has been reported to be unhappy with Syria’s heavy-handed, ineffectual handling of the protest movement, this is the first major public rebuke of Assad, a key ally of the Iranian government.
Iran has offered previously to “advise” the Syrian government on how to tackle the situation, but the Assad government’s strategy, such as it is, appears far afield of the Iranian government’s own crackdown strategy after the disputed 2009 elections, which saw limited official violence (particularly in comparison to Assad’s Gadhafi-esque response) and mostly waited for the protesters to tire themselves out.
Now Ahmadinejad is urging Syria to accept the help of regional partners in implementing “essential reforms” and urged the government to work with the people toward a resolution of the grievances.
Unfortunately for Assad, it may well be too late to take this advice, as after the months of violence many are convinced the regime cannot reform, and for many in the protest movement, meaningful reforms that might have been embraced five months ago would now be too little, too late.