Iran’s Syria plan: Hezbollah withdrawal, Assad as toothless leader
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Iran’s Syria plan: Hezbollah withdrawal, Assad as toothless leader

Iranian foreign minister heads to Damascus for Syria talks after meeting Hezbollah leader, Lebanese officials in Beirut

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference following a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam on August 11, 2015 at the Government Palace in the capital Beirut. (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference following a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam on August 11, 2015 at the Government Palace in the capital Beirut. (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)

Iran’s latest plan to end the five-year civil war in Syria includes a withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters and and keeping Bashar Assad as a powerless head of state, according to pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to visit Syria on Wednesday to discuss a “new plan” by the Islamic Republic to help resolve the conflict there, his spokeswoman said.

Iran is Assad’s main regional ally, providing him with both financial and military support. It will be Zarif’s first visit to Damascus since Tehran signed a nuclear deal with world powers on July 14, and comes as part of a regional tour.

During his visit, Zarif will raise “Iran’s new plan to help solve the Syrian issue,” spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.

Asharq al-Awsat cited sources as saying that Zarif had planned in his Tuesday visit with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon to convey “Iran’s support for Hezbollah, which is still a main player, like other main players.”

“However, there will be a change of roles in light of the talk about the expected settlement in Syria which will stipulate the departure of Shiite fighters from the battle,” the sources quoted Zarif as saying.

As part of the Syrian peace plan, Assad would retain “a tokenistic role, that is, he will be a president without authority,” the report said, while an alternate government is formed.

Zarif began a regional tour in Lebanon on Tuesday, after a previously scheduled trip to Turkey was postponed.

The Syria crisis is a cause of dispute between Iran and Turkey, with Tehran accusing Ankara of letting weapons and rebels through its border with Syria.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said last week that Tehran would submit a new Syria peace plan to the United Nations.

Afkham said the plan was based on “respect for the Syrian people’s legitimate right to reforms and to decide their own future.”

It also rejected “using terrorism for political ends” as well as “foreign interference in the Syrian government’s independent policies.”

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