Despite representing a regime that suppressed its own pro-democracy movement, a senior Iranian official says Tehran “supports all the way” the movements for democracy sweeping the Middle East. Javad Larijani also warned the United States, Europe and the Arab League against meddling in the affairs of its ally, Syria, calling the potential threats ‘dangerous.’
Javad Larijani said Wednesday that Iran has supported the change sweeping the region “since day number one” when the uprisings began in Tunisia. He calls the Arab Spring a “fantastic and very important social change.”
Larijani, who heads Iran’s Human Rights Council, represents a government under international scrutiny for its alleged abuses of human rights, including the detention of political opponents and one of the highest execution rates in the world.
As a top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he warned the West against any external pressure, especially military, in countries such as Bahrain and Syria where uprisings have become protracted and bloody.
In Bahrain, where the majority of the population is Shi'ite - the same brand of Islam that the majority of Iranians practice - Larijani told reporters at a news conference that regional and Western powers should not interfere.
“We are against military activity or military meddling of the affairs of Bahrain, either by Saudi brothers or others," he said. "We think it is totally against the interests of Bahraini people, against the security of the region, against the interests of Saudi as well. They won’t succeed. We believe the wish of the people of Bahrain - Sunni and Shi'ite together - are in the streets, not only the Shi'ite. So it will succeed.”
On Iran’s closest ally, Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is facing international calls to step down and suspension from the Arab League, Larijani condemned what he said is ‘incitement’ by the United States, European powers and Arab nations to urge the opposition to take up arms against the government.
“These are very dangerous events; we are against this kind of meddling in the situation," he said. "Our position is that all the hands should be cut off from this kind of interference. It is up to the people of Syria to decide. We respect, everybody should respect, the decision of the people of Syria.”
Asked about the move at the Arab League to suspend Syria, Larijani questioned the group’s motive, saying he did not think it was about protecting the rights of Syrians to pursue democracy.
“So it seems that democracy is not the issue," said Larijani. "So if democracy is not the issue, then what is the issue? I think the issue is they want to generate a government that is submissive toward Israel more than the present government.”
Iran has been sanctioned for nuclear activities that it says are peaceful. Western powers say Iran is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, and a recent U.N. nuclear agency report appeared to support that accusation. Larijani denied that Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb and called the U.N. report a “disgrace” that lacked evidence.