TEHRAN (Asremrooz):Iran has argued vehemently against US airstrikes, warned that sectarian "fire" will spread, and that rebels may have been behind the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that US officials say killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus.
In a letter acquired by The Christian Science Monitor that was sent sometime in the spring, Iran told American officials that, as a "supporter" of the rebels, the US would be held responsible for any rebel use of chemical weapons.
Iran amplified those year-old warnings over the weekend in its strongest public comments to date linking the rebels with a chemical weapons, echoing Russia's dismissal of American assurances that President Bashar al-Assad's forces were to blame.
“There is ample intelligence that takfiri extremist groups are in possession of chemical arms,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday during a visit to Iraq.
Iran says that it warned the United States directly, in mid- and late- 2012, and at least once after that, about the risks of chemical weapons among the rebels. The letter acquired by the Monitor references messages from July 18 and Dec. 1, 2012.
The Iranian letter is undated and was produced by the previous government under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to informed sources in Iran who provided a copy to the Monitor on the condition that they not be further identified.
A US State Department official would not verify the authenticity of the letter as a matter of policy, stating: “We don’t comment on diplomatic correspondence.”
Since the Aug. 21 attack, Iranian officials have repeatedly stated their opposition to chemical weapons use by any side – a policy that has been consistent since Iran was targeted by chemical munitions repeated in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.
Mr. Zarif first revealed that Iran had sent direct warnings to the US via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran in an interview published Sept. 1 by Aseman weekly in Tehran.
Zarif said in the interview that Iran sent a memo to the US last December stating that “handmade articles of chemical weapons, including sarin gas, are being transferred into Syria.” He added: “In the same note, we warned Washington that radical groups might be planning to use these chemical agents.” Zarif said the US never responded to the letter.
The document seen by the Monitor appears to be a third letter, which recalls the “messages” of the two previous letters, but does not mention any specific details about the types of chemical weapons that might be in rebel hands, or where they came from.