U.S.: Iran Helping Assad 'Brutalize' His People
The United States on Tuesday accused Iran of helping "brutalize" Syria as Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to talk to Russia about Tehran's potential role at a peace conference, AFP reports.
Kerry will meet in Paris on January 13 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss whether Iran should take part in the conference later this month in Switzerland aimed at ending the nearly three-year-old war in Syria, the State Department said.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon started sending out invitations to the peace conference, but Iran was not on the first list.
Russia, which like Iran is a supporter of Syria's embattled President Bashar Al-Assad, supports participation by Tehran.
Kerry, who has negotiated a thaw with Iran on its disputed nuclear program, earlier said that the clerical regime could play a role in the Syria conference from the "sidelines."
Throughout the civil war in Syria, Iran has provided Assad with military support during his fight against the rebels.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
An Iranian parliamentarian recently boasted that his country sent “hundreds of battalions” to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s troops.
"At this point, Iran has done nothing but helped the regime, help bring foreign fighters in, help the regime's efforts to brutalize the Syrian people," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday, according to AFP.
"If they wanted to send a message to the world about their seriousness of having a positive outcome, there are steps they could take. There's no indication that they have any desire or interest in taking any of these steps," she added.
Iran has scoffed at Kerry's offer of a sideline role at the peace talks, saying it would only accept offers that respect the country's "honor."
Syria has declared that it is committed to having its key ally Iran attend the Geneva conference.