Adviser of Iran's supreme leader warns Assad about Trump

Adviser of Iran's supreme leader warns Assad about Trump
3 min read
22 November, 2016
Influential aide Ali Akbar Velayati has voiced concern about Donald Trump's election win, and said Syria's Bashar al-Assad should be wary about allying with the president-elect.
Ali Akbar Velayati is a special adviser to Iran's current leader [Getty]

While Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Hizballah Hassan Nasrallah both warmly welcomed Donald Trump's election victory, the president elect has received a more frosty reception in Iran.

A leading aide of Iran's supreme leader has voiced caution about Trump's ambitions, saying he is not "trustworthy".

"Mr. Bashar Assad has been elected by the Syrian people and he is responsible to decide in the country and his positions are also related to Syria," said Ali Akbar Velayati.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the Americans -either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama - are not trustworthy."

Parting ways?

Velayati's comments marks a potential departure of the Iranian leadership from their allies Hizballah and the Syrian regime.

Leaders of both have made it clear they prefer Trump over the Democrat whose Middle East policy is viewed as a less interventionist.
Trump and the Islamic State militants were gifts from God to the Republican Guard.

Trump has stated he would be willing to work with leaders such as Assad to fight the Islamic State group instead of pursuing regime change, which Hillary Clinton appears to be aiming for.

Following Trump's election win, a visibly delighted Assad told a Portuguese television channel that he was happy with the result.

"We cannot tell anything about what he's going to do, but if … he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries," he said.

However, Trump has also surrounded himself with hardline conservatives who have been traditionally suspicious of Iran and reject the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Hard-line support

Tearing up this pact could lead to sanctions returning and ramping up tensions between the two countries.

This would likely strengthen hard-liners in Iran who would relish the opportunity to confront the US again and regain their former positions of power.
A return of sanctions would likely scare off Western investors and advance the Republican Guard's own business interests.

"Trump and the Islamic State militants were gifts from God to the [Republican Guard]," a senior official told the Reuters.

"If Trump adopts a hostile policy towards Iran or scraps the deal, hard-liners and particularly the [Republican Guard] will benefit from it," a former reformist official told the news agency.

Another likely outcome of the return of sanctions would be that Western investors could be scared off advancing the Republican Guard's own business interests which have flourished in a closed environment. 

Velayati - a former foreign minister - himself is a highly controversial figure, wanted by Argentina in connection with the bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994.

He had earlier dismissed Trump and Clinton as "two sides of the same coin".

Velayati also rejected suggestions that Iran - which is militarily supporting Assad - should work with the US in creating peace in Syria.

"Are they (the Americans) representing the Syrian people so they can dictate what they should do and so that we need to negotiate with them on who should be Syria’s president?" he said, according to Iran's Press TV.

"Why and based on what entitlement are the Americans saying that Bashar al-Assad must leave and the person that we have in mind be president?"

However, as it unsure who will be onboard Trump's cabinet, the potential for a harsher approach to Iran and its allies is also possible.