Middle East

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood: Iran ‘enemy’ for arming regime

Syrians gather near a crater from a tank shell in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, after a raid by Syrian troops killed several rebels and civilians Thursday, April 5, 2012. (AP Photo)

ISTANBUL: Secretary-General of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Farouk Tayfour has hit out at “enemy” Iran for arming the Syrian regime, and described sponsor Turkey as a “model Islamic state.”

In an interview following what he described as a “disappointing outcome” at Sunday’s Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul, the Brotherhood’s most senior representative at the Syrian National Council in Istanbul also confronted Kurdish accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood is doing Turkey’s bidding to pursue an Islamic state in Syria.

He said the SNC is committed to a civil state representing all Syrians, but added that a new Syria should be proportionately represented.

“Islamic culturally and secular politically, [Turkey] is the model for the Islamic movement,” he told The Daily Star, adding, “the Iranian, on the other hand, is the worst.”

Tayfour, a longtime Brotherhood leader from Hama, left Syria during the persecution of the Brotherhood under Hafez Assad during the 1980s and is considered at the fore of the party’s political activities.

In January, Tayfour revealed during an interview with Al-Hayat that he had rejected a power-sharing offer from Iran, which was conditional on Bashar Assad remaining in power.

Asked whether the position would change if another offer should follow recent talks and upcoming meetings between Turkey and Iran, Tayfour was resolute: “The removal of Assad is a must.

“If they change their position on this, we’ll see, but for the moment, we know that Iran is supporting the regime.”

Tayfour said he had evidence Iran had agreed to supply arms through Iraq. “The contract was signed one month ago and activated a week ago,” he said. “They are killing our people, along with Russia, and so for that reason they are our enemy.”

Asked how he saw the Iranian alliance in a post-Assad era, Tayfour said: “It will be the continuation of a tense relationship ... there will be nothing new on Day Two.”

Citing “differing interests” between countries in the “Friends of Syria” group, Tayfour said the final communique had fallen short of expectations to “provide humanitarian corridors for Syrians, recognize the SNC in a legal capacity and arm the Free Syrian Army.”

The Friends group of countries committed to increase technical and communications equipment for rebel forces but endorsed a Russian-backed statement from joint-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan which called for all parties to adhere to a cease-fire in the country, allow humanitarian aid in to the country and for the Syrian government and opposition groups to enter into dialogue. It did not call on Assad to step down.

Host country Turkey which has enjoyed a long relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood has led calls, along with the U.S., U.K. and France for Assad to step down. Importantly, in his opening address at the Friends meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not reiterate the call.

Tayfour said he believed Turkey’s position was stronger than that voiced at the conference. “The international community have differing positions on intervention,” he said. “Within that, the Turks are trying to maneuver and push ahead.”

“Erdogan has been ahead of the U.S. and Western position from early on, he said ... The Turks wanted the final statement to be stronger but was less stern on the international stage ... The U.S. is not in exactly the same position as Turkey.”

Asked to define how the Brotherhood saw Turkey’s role in Syria and the region more broadly, Tayfour said Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) offered an “ideal Islamic model.”

“Erdogan’s AKP party is the model for the Islamic movement,” he said. “It is a model for all the Islamic world.”

Tayfour rejected Kurdish opposition claims that Turkey had pressured the council to remove demands for ethnic recognition.

“The Kurds are only 8 percent of the Syrian population,” he said, “the rest are Syrians and Arabs.”

“We knew ahead of the meeting that the Kurds would quit the council – they were seeking this attention.”

He said the opposition “in general does not need to represent 100 percent of the people ... In Europe if you win a majority of 51 percent, you can win government. Why is it not the same with [the council]?”

Last month, ahead of the meeting, the Brotherhood issued a landmark 10-point statement outlining their aims for a moderate and pluralistic civil state that assured human rights and the women’s role in a post-Assad Syria.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 06, 2012, on page 1.




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