Washington Post, By Jason Rezaian, November 18
Tehran— Under the motto “No to violence, yes to democracy,” an estimated 200 Syrian and regional politicians gathered in Tehran on Sunday to discuss a possible end to the violence that has engulfed Syria since March 2011.
“We believe reforms in Syria should lead to a free, fair and transparent election with the cooperation of all political parties,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in opening remarks at the one-day Syria National Dialogue conference.
Iran continues to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime despite the bloodshed, which has killed more than 40,000 people since the fighting began, making Western and many Arab governments doubt the Islamic Republic’s sincerity in trying to end the violence. But the presence of delegations from dozens of countries, including representatives of Russia and China, two key Syrian allies, show that Iran still holds some sway in this debate.
Despite the criticisms, leaders in Tehran have long contended that they support a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict and can play a positive role in engineering a lasting cease-fire there.