John Howell (Con)
The Minister has already mentioned Iran, which has a substantial military presence in and a close relationship with Syria. Is that a force for good or, as is my opinion, is it holding up the normalisation of Syria?
My hon. Friend asks a good question. Iran will say that its support for the Syrian regime was designed to stop extremist forces taking over Damascus at a crucial stage of the civil war. On the other hand, there is no doubt that support by Iran for the regime has also contributed to a civil war being waged against the Syrian people and has involved support for various atrocities carried out by the Syrian regime.
There is no doubt that Iran's presence in Syria is a cause of great concern, not least to Israel, with the stationing of sophisticated weaponry in southern Syria that does not appear to be directed at Daesh or anyone else. Iran will have some questions to answer about how it sees its presence in the future of Syria. What we want to see is an independent Syria, free of foreign constraints upon it, but no longer a regime that wages war on its people. Those who have been its partners will need to answer for the part they have played in the past, and it remains open whether they can play any constructive role in the future.