‘US intentionally giving weapons to extremists in Syria’
The perception among Iranians and the people of Syria is that the Americans are deliberately giving weapons to so-called moderates as they know that they will be passed on to extremists, said Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran.
Russia has sharply criticized the annual US defense spending bill for 2017 signed by President Barack Obama last week. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes the US to send man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) to Syrian rebels. Moscow calls the move a "hostile step."
“Washington committed to separate the rebels from the terrorists but couldn't complete the task. So how is it possible to arm those people, if you don't even know who will be on the receiving end - terrorists or so-called moderates? Today you will supply moderates with MANPADS, tomorrow they will defect to the extremists. That has happened in the past,” said Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
RT asked Professor Marandi whether he shares Moscow’s concerns on the matter and what his stance on the US supplying rebels with MANPADS is.
Mohammad Marandi: I think it is quite obvious, the perception among Iranians and the people of Syria that I have spoken to in Damascus is that the Americans are intentionally giving these weapons and they know that they will be passed on to the extremists. The Americans only give weapons to the so-called moderates so that later on when some tragic event occurs they can claim that they were not responsible. But the belief is that - as with the sophisticated weapons that in the past had been given to the extremists - in this case, the Americans also are doing this intentionally.
RT: After the recent meeting in Moscow between the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey on Syria, there's been speculation the US is being sidelined on the Syrian front. Would you agree or disagree?
MM: During the last few days I was in Aleppo, and I just returned to Damascus last night. People in that area are very skeptical about Turkish intentions, and there is a great deal of anger directed toward Turkey. Yesterday, on campus when I spoke to colleagues and students there – they believe that the Turkish president simply cannot be trusted. Therefore, they are waiting to see what happens. Their expectations from the negotiated settlement at this stage are not very high.
RT: You've recently visited the city of Aleppo that was liberated by Russian and Syrian forces. Tell us what you saw there, please.
MM: I visited different parts of the city and one of the interesting things was that I spoke to a large number of refugees who came out of East Aleppo and they were telling me that the extremists were preventing them from leaving and they only were able to begin escaping at night and as the extremists were on the retreat on different fronts. They would be shot at, and some of them told me that they actually saw people being killed…
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