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Two voices of conscience: Iranian and Israeli on Syria's war

Former president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, has spoken out criticizing the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons. This is a extremely neuralgic point with the Iranians who suffered gas attacks during the Iran-Iraq war.

"Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has roiled Iranian politics by admitting that the Syrian government gassed its own people at Ghuta in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. He was lamenting the calamities that are befalling the hapless Syrian people. He attacked the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for filling what he called “football stadiums” full of political prisoners, as well as for using gas on the rebels.

"This sign of division in the Iranian elite would ideally be used by Washington to put diplomatic pressure on that country. However, the American fixation with gunboat diplomacy will probably forestall that diplomatic approach." Juan Cole reports the speech and offers a brief analysis.

Aluf Ben, editor-in-chief of Haaretz, poses this challenge to Israeli leaders: "If the call for intervention in Syria stems from moral considerations, as its supporters claim, there’s no doubt that Israel, founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, should set an example for the world and send its air force to land a decisive blow on the “Syrian Hitler’s” SS units. The same strike could also hit the Hezbollah infantry units fighting nearby."

On diplomatic efforts: The Times reports on Tuesday : "Two recent diplomatic ventures have raised speculation about a possible back channel between Washington and Tehran. Last week, Jeffrey Feltman, a high State Department official in President Obama’s first term who is now a senior envoy at the United Nations, visited Iran to meet with the new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and discussed possible reactions to an American airstrike in Syria"

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.