Assad met with Khamenei, Rouhani and Soleimani in Tehran; Iran: Tehran will be alongside Damascus in the stabilization, return of refugees and internal political process; Iranian president rejects Zarif’s resignation.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Iran this week, his first visit to the region since the beginning of Syria’s civil war which started 8 years ago.

Assad met with both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, as well as the head of Iran’s elite Quds Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Qasem Soleimani.

In their meeting, Khamenei told Assad he was proud of his efforts in uniting Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, as well as praised close ties between Syria and Iran, Assad thanking the Islamic Republic for its support. Khamenei claimed Iran was proud of “helping Syria’s government and nation as support for the resistance movement.” President Rouhani assured Assad that “Tehran will be alongside Damascus in the stabilization, return of refugees and internal political process.” He referred to Assad as “the hero of the Arab world”.

Assad’s regime, backed by Iranian Shi’ite militia, have retaken most of Syria, about two-thirds.

Syrian media reported that the leaders released the statement, “Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the strategic levels reached between the two countries in all fields.” Iran and Syria have avoided publicly speaking about Iranian military forces in Iran as both claim Iranian “advisors” in Syria assisting Assad’s regime.

Assad has been reported to have only left Syria three times over the course of its civil war, visiting Russia twice and now Iran. His last visit to Iran was in 2010.

Meanwhile in Iran, Rouhani announced on Wednesday that he rejects Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s resignation, stating, “As the Supreme Leader has described you a ‘trustworthy, brave and religious’ person in the forefront of resistance against widespread US pressures, I believe accepting your resignation would be against the benefit of the country, so I reject it.”

On Tuesday, Zarif announced his sudden resignation, offering an apology to the Iranian people with no explanation or reasons for his request to leave his position. Zarif has been in office since 2013 and was the main negotiator for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, nuclear deal).

Photo: Harold Escalona/