Six months into the continuing violent crack down by security forces on the uprising in Syria, which the UN now says has killed more than 2,200 civilians, President Bashar al-Assad’s main ally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be getting concerned.
In a rare, direct intervention in the internal affairs of Syria – an arena Damascus is always telling the world it has no place in meddling – Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called for a dialogue between the Assad regime and the protesters. "The people and government of Syria must come together to reach an understanding," he told Hezbollah-run Al Manar television.
"When there is a problem between the people and their leaders they must sit down together to reach a solution, away from violence," he said. "One must not kill the other, because killing, whichever side is responsible, serves Zionist interests.”
His comments directly contradict the official state narrative that security forces are battling against an armed uprising by gangs and Islamist extremists. The question to be answered is whether Assad, who has defied all calls to end the violence against protestors, will listen to his only ally.