Iran’s leaders caution against U.S.-led military strike on Syria


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian officials on Wednesday warned against a possible U.S.-led military strike on Syria in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack there last week.

While some Iranian lawmakers implied that any foreign military intervention in Syria would result in counterattacks on Israel, the Islamic republic’s top leaders say their priority is averting a larger war in the Middle East.

Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Iran’s leaders have publicly said they favor a political rather than military solution to the violence and have consistently tried to take part in international efforts to resolve the crisis.

Many in the international community, however, question Iran’s intentions and its continued support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and they consider Tehran to be a main source of Assad’s financial and military support.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told the country’s new cabinet that any U.S. involvement in the Syrian crisis would constitute a “disaster for the region.” He warned that “the Americans will suffer damages similar to when they interfered in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Starting this fire will be like lighting a spark in a large gunpowder keg, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences,” Khamenei said.

Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, reiterated those concerns. “The people of the world and especially the Middle East cannot tolerate another war, and any new adventure in this region will deeply affect world peace and stability and only lead to the expansion of radicalism and terrorism,” Rouhani said.

The conservative speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, was more ominous, saying that a hasty attack on Syria would result in heavy losses for the United States and its allies, especially Israel.

“If adventurous countries want to take this action, they will be plunging into an unclear situation, and the Zionist regime, specifically, will face an even more bitter doom than the 33-days war,” Larijani said, referring to the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Despite their support for the Syrian government, Iranian leaders repeated their long-standing public opposition to the use of chemical weapons, although they say it is still unclear whether pro-Assad or opposition forces were responsible for last week’s attack.

“The Islamic republic of Iran, as a victim of chemical warfare, is a pioneer against such weapons and strongly condemns their use,” Rouhani said.