Brahimi slams Syrian president
|Out of captivity: Iranian Guards and Syrian women|
President Bashar al-Assad today freed 2,130 of his tens of thousands of detainees, including 76 Syrian women, to win the release of 48 Iranian Revolutionary Guards captured by the Free Syrian Army in Damascus last August.
The FSA said the Iranians had been assisting the Syrian military, but Tehran claimed they were “Shiite pilgrims” to the Sayyidah Zeinab shrine in the Syrian capital.
Qatar and Turkey jointly brokered the swap on Tehran’s demand. It involved the 48 Iranians in exchange for 2,125 Syrians, 76 of them women, four Turks and one Palestinian.
The 48 Revolutionary Guards were taken to the Sheraton hotel in Damascus, where the Iranian ambassador received them, before being flown to Tehran.
Syrian activist @The_47th tweeted: “For Assad: 1 Iranian = 43.7 Syrians.”
He then re-tweeted “يا ريت كان عندنا نصف مليون إيراني كنا استبدلناهم بحرية ٢٣ مليون سوري” (Arabic for “Wish we had half a million Iranians. We could have won freedom for 23 million Syrians.”
The exchange came on the day Syria troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi said Assad’s speech on Sunday was a "lost opportunity" to stop Syria’s killings and devastation.
Brahimi told the BBC the address had called for a repeat of previous initiatives that had not worked, and had been sectarian and one-sided.
"What you need is reaching out and recognizing that there is... a very serious problem between Syrians, and that Syrians have got to talk to one another to solve it," Brahimi added.
The Algerian diplomat also confirmed reports that Assad had told him when they last met on 24 December that he hoped to run in the next presidential election scheduled for 2014.
However, Brahimi said this was too far away and that people believed one family ruling a country for 40 years was "a little bit too long".
"Change has to be real and President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspirations of these people, rather than resisting."