Iran’s statements on the chemical attack on Ghouta in the Damascus Province linked the attack to “the conspiracy against the Syrian regime in order to tarnish its reputation.” However, some in Iran called for waiting. Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani published a controversial statement in this respect, saying in a meeting last Saturday with a delegation of Isfahan residents: “Any regime that uses chemical bombs against its own people shall face a harsh sentence much like [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein faced eternal shame after he bombed Halabja and met such a horrible fate.”
The 21 August chemical attack, during which Assad’s regime allegedly unleashed sarin gas on opposition-held neighborhoods, killed 1,429 people (426 of them children), according to United States Secretary of State John Kerry, in comments made Friday.
Recalling his visit to Halabja after its liberation by Iranian troops, Rafsanjani said that he was met by “the sad scene of victims thrown to the floor like autumn leaves. Fear of Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons against Iran was one of the reasons why Iran accepted to end the war.” The Iranian city of Sardasht was also the target of a chemical attack by Saddam Husseim’s regime, albeit with fewer victims than in Halabja.
Yet these statements by Rafsanjani, currently the chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, published by Imam Khomeini’s granddaughter Naïma Eshraqi on Facebook, sparked varying reactions among Iranians. Websites in favor of the Syrian regime tried to deny the statement. Later, the public relations officer at Iran’s Expediency Council denied his statement, claiming that Rafsanjani’s words were distorted.
In an interview with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Fars news website, Reza Soleymani stated that “Rafsanjani talked about the chemical bombing in Syria without saying that the Assad regime committed this massacre.”
In response to a question on her Facebook page about whether she was certain of the accuracy of this news, Naïma Eshraqi said she was not present at the meeting during which Rafsanjani made the statement, but that the statements were reported to her by her husband, adding that she asked a journalist from the Sharq newspaper and was able to ascertain that the news was accurate.
This is not the first time former Iranian President Rafsanjani has made statements against the Assad regime. Two years ago, at the beginning of the regime’s crackdown on protestors, he made similar harsh statements, saying that “the Syrian people will not allow such repression on behalf of the regime to go by without any reaction.”
This article has been translated from the original Arabic.