Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Russia Seeks Iran's Aid in Syria Crisis but U.S. Opposes Enlisting Tehran in Moves to Oust Assad

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Russia Seeks Iran's Aid in Syria Crisis but U.S. Opposes Enlisting Tehran in Moves to Oust Assad

Article excerpt

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia is seeking to enlist Iran in efforts to engineer a political transition in Syria, a move that drew a hostile U.S. reaction even as the Obama administration seeks more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian move comes amid reports on al-Jazeera television, citing activists, of new massacres by Mr. Assad's forces. The reports said at least 140 Syrians were killed, some of them women and children, including 78 in Hama. Mr. Assad's father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, ordered the city leveled in February 1982 after a Sunni Muslim uprising claimed at least 10,000 lives.

The possibility of recruiting Iran, one of Mr. Assad's main backers, to assist in efforts to end the violence and ease him out of power was floated as Kofi Annan, architect of a failed U.N.- and Arab League-sponsored truce in April, prepared to address the United Nations today about ways to revive his moribund peace plan or pursue next steps.

The entry of Syria's biggest backer, Shiite Muslim Iran, to a struggle that now pits a Sunni-led uprising against Mr. Assad's Alawite minority would alienate the United States and Sunni Arab powers calling for more sweeping economic sanctions.

It's "a little hard to imagine inviting a country that is stage- managing the Assad regime's assault on its people," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Enlisting Iran would add a problematic new dimension to international negotiations on the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear arms program.

From the point of view of newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin, though, enlisting the Iranians could help provide diplomatic cover for efforts to preserve Alawite rule and protect Russia's interests with countries that matter to it, such as Turkey and Iran, Robert Danin, a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow in Washington, said in a phone interview.

The latest round of diplomatic maneuvering -- from Russia's backing away from Mr. …

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