'Wait until the harvest': Leading figures in Iran, Lebanon warn of Aleppo fallout
The fall of Aleppo, and particularly the manner in which it was taken by pro-Assad forces, has exposed deep divisions among Shia religio-political leaders across the Middle East.
Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, the cleric who leads Friday prayers in Tehran, said last week that the “Aleppo triumph” was a victory of the “Muslims over the infidels,” in a swipe at the largely Sunni Syrian rebels who had fought pro-Assad forces for control of the city, according to various Iranian media outlets.
The 78-year-old hardliner gives a weekly sermon at Tehran University, an important responsibility that rotates between high-ranking members of Iran’s clerical elite.
But Sheikh Subhi al-Tufayli, one of Lebanon’s leading Shia clerics, gave his own fiery Friday sermon.
“Russian warplanes are bombing the nation of Muhammad [Muslims],” he said. “And unfortunately, we are with them today like we were with them yesterday – happy in the murder of Muslim children.”
Tufayli was the first secretary-general of Hezbollah, from the group’s founding in 1989 to 1991. He has previously criticized both Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Tufayli slammed Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war last October
“Pay attention,” he told his congregation, “all the effort, pressure, military, and war is against the genuine Syrian opposition. Whereas factions of the Islamic State group must remain for the regime and its allies so that there can be a comparison between the two. No one would accept the Islamic State, so they must accept the regime.”
As he reached the end of his sermon, Tufayli let loose: “These people [pro-Assad forces] claim they are fighting terrorist organisations. You [pro-Assad forces] are its mother and father. You raised them [Islamic State group] and continue yet. You ARE the terrorists. You are the killers, in secret and in public. And let me tell you: If you seize Aleppo – and a hundred Aleppos – you will be defeated.”
“I am certain that the Russians will not be able to rest in Syria,” he said of Moscow’s intervention in Syria.
“They will be fought until they are defeated,” he said. “And I advise those who stand with them [Russia] to withdraw. Do not be happy with the murder of the children of Aleppo! Do not be happy with the forced displacement in Aleppo!”
The harsh tone of his sermon was nothing new for Tufayli, who has previously compared the bombardment of Aleppo to Karbala, an important battle in Islamic history that is mourned by many Shia Muslims as a catastrophe.
Translation: Karbala this year is in Aleppo, and Imam Hussein’s baby is under the rubble of their homes
'This will take two decades to resolve'
Reformist diplomat Mir Mahmoud Mousavi - a member of a high-profile political dynasty in Iran - joined the criticism of the Aleppo onslaught, saying that the
fall of Aleppo was nothing but “two nights of joy" which Tehran will be worrying about for the next 30 years.
"The killing of 300,000 people and the displacement of 12 million others in Syria will only lead to hatred and violence; there will be 10 million Syrian families affected and living amid hatred,” he told the reformist Sharq newspaper in an interview.
“This will need two decades to be resolved,” he said, adding that “things are worsening in Syria.”
Mir Mahmoud Mousavi comes from an important political family in Iran.
His brother is Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the former Iranian prime minister between 1981 and 1989.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi famously ran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential elections and lost amid claims of vote rigging, trigging widespread protests. He has remained under house arrest ever since.
The Lebanese Shia academic and political analyst Hareth Sleiman was similarly gloomy about prospects for peace in the region in the wake of Aleppo’s fall.
“You have planted the seeds of death, and destruction, and hatred, and savagery,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “So wait until the harvest season.”
Hareth Sleiman's full Facebook post in Arabic
He called recent events in Aleppo “a shame on humanity, and a decline in its status.”
“Shame on the monsters Putin, Khameini, Assad, and mercenaries from all corners of the world, those who dance with glee to the crime, and those who gloat in the face of the blood of children and tears of women,” he continued.
“The victory that the Axis of Resistance are happy with,” he wrote, “will not be a victory for you, not today and not tomorrow.”
'It is time for the Islamic conquests'
The men's views on the taking of Aleppo could not be further from those of the country’s military elite.
“It is now time for the Islamic conquests,” Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General Hossein Salami told Iranian media.
“After the liberation of Aleppo, Bahrain’s hopes will be realised and Yemen will be happy with the defeat of the enemies of Islam,” he added in reference to other conflicts in the region.
At a joint Russia-Turkey-Iran meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow to discuss Syria’s future, though, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there could only be a political solution to the Syrian conflict – not a military one.
This follows reports that it was Iran and its proxies that destabilized the Russia-Turkey deal to evacuate Aleppo, believing the agreement gave too much ground to the Syrian rebels.