Jan Oberg

US had plans to destabilize Syria long before 2011: analyst

The US is documented (Wikileaks) to have had a policy of de-stabilization of Syria years before violence broke out in 2011. Western countries have delivered weapons to ’moderate’ and not-so-moderate groups.

Dr. Jan Oberg is a peace researcher, international mediator, and art photographer and the director of the Transnational Foundation in Sweden. He has published articles and photos on the Syrian crisis. In an exclusive interview with Khamenei.ir, Dr. Oberg has answered to questions about Swedish PM’s recent visit to Iran, Iran-Sweden relations and the Syrian Crisis:


What was the most important part of the meeting between Ayatollah Khamenei and Sweden’s PM in your opinion as a Swedish peace and conflict researcher?


The fact that the Swedish Prime Minister was received at the highest level by the Supreme leader, the President and the Foreign Minister of Iran gathered in the same room indicates that Iran is sincere in its wish to co-operate and be open to the West - also to smaller countries.

That is heart-warming from every viewpoint. Sweden and Iran are in a clear win-win situation - no reason whatsoever to have conflicts or animosity.

Undoubtedly the meeting between human beings, face-to-face and not via ambassadors or electronic communication, is second to none. For the prime minister to get glimpses of the famous hospitality, culture and also education and production facilities is bound to make a positive impression - as would Sweden on an Iranian visitor. 

Diplomacy and dialogue is characteristics of civilization, of respect and non-violence - as has also been shown in the historic nuclear agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear technology. The alternative would have been non-communication and probably violence.

Sweden can indeed serve, like other smaller countries precisely because they are small, as a go-between and help mend - just a little - the negative attitudes between Iran and the West since the 1953 coup d’etat against prime minister Dr. Mossadegh by CIA and MI 5 in 1953.

Sweden is too small to have a hard, military interventionist policy. It’s a great advantage to be small and soft rather than big and hard as the big powers - not great for they are not great - try to be.

Since the nuclear deal of 2015 the world has been waiting to do business in and with Iran. Iran is an attractive market, yes - but it is so much more, an inspiration in terms of culture and beauty to any collaborative partner. So, trade plus - culture, art, music, films - a give and take bridge-building. I never understood why cultural workers are not members of such missions…

There are lots of mutual interests and benefits to be explored. However, the financial aspects that the US has refused to lift as well as new sanctions stand in the way of a full implementation. Although Iran has kept its promises.

I’ve always been of the opinion that these sanctions were unfair to the Iranian people and politically counterproductive. Installing sanctions is easy; getting rid of them is - as we see now - much more difficult. 

The best to hope for is a) that no new sanctions will be implemented and b) that the rest of the world will go about their business and other relations with Iran to such an extent that the US cannot stop it or attempt to punish all the ”violators”.


In the meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei called the presence of ambassadors from some Western countries among Syrian opposition groups and the generous supply of arms to them at the beginning of opposition moves in Syria, problematic interference; what’s your take on that?


Well, everybody focus on violence to apportion guilt and to force the solution - usually their own. Nothing good has ever come out of that. 

The US is documented (Wikileaks) to have had a policy of de-stabilization of Syria years before violence broke out in 2011. Western countries have delivered weapons to ’moderate’ and not-so-moderate groups. Russia, Iran and others have conducted military activities too. Syria has a right to self-defense, according to Article 51 of the UN Charter and to call upon anyone to help in that self-defense struggle - a fact hardly every mentioned in the Western mainstream press because its narrative is black-and-white in the extreme. As we know, the combined result of all this since 2011 is that Syria today is the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 according to the UN in Syria. 

Now, think for a moment if all sides had honored the UN Charter’s provision that peace shall be established by peaceful means and only when all civilian means of conflict-resolution have been tried and found in vain can military means be employed (Chapter 7) under the command of the UN itself and no one else.

Violence is only symptoms of deep, underlying conflicts. And the conflicts, not the violence, is the key to peace. The world still has a frighteningly long way to go to learn how to deal ethically and efficiently with its conflicts and treat them as problems to be solved and not as people to be killed.

What we must prevent and fight is not conflicts. They are part and parcel of the good society - a society or a family without conflicts would be boring and/or repressive. What we must learn to kill is the will to kill, the theories and the concepts that makes it look legitimate to kill. 

Alternatively, that will to kill will one day kill us all.


US government insists on backing of “moderate rebels”; are they different from ISIS terrorists? What are your observations?


I sincerely believe that the US has known since 2011 that the - very understandable, civilian and peaceful - opposition was run over and marginalized in no time by foreign extremist elements. 

In December 2012 the so-called ”Friends Of Syria” established and supported something they called the Syrian National Coalition, termed it the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people (without asking any of the people, of course) and de facto, albeit not de jure, deposed the legitimate government and presidency of Syria.

Method á la Libya with disastrous results.

In this sense there were no moderate rebels.

The problem is that ’rebel’ in English has a positive connotation. Secondly, that nobody should be called moderate who kills people and, even worse, kills them on somebody else’s territory. 

But as we all know the slogan for all violent actors goes like this - unbearably immoral and self-defeating as it is: ”We kill people who kill people because it is wrong to kill people.”

Humankind, as I said, has a very long way to go. But we must anyhow never give up speaking truth to power. 
And here Gandhi remains a good guide: See the world as a big tree. The truth about that tree - the universe - sits in every little leaf. If you destroy parts of the that tree, you destroy part of the truth - that is why there is so much lying before, during and after wars. 

And here Gandhi meets Rumi: “Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.” 

That is, violence is always tied to who is right and who is wrong, who is evil and who is good - to there being a good violence that can defeat evil violence.

That’s plain wrong. 

Instead, we should meet in that garden and discuss how to cultivate our interests, our respect and our love, celebrate our diversity and deal with our conflicts through dialogue - and perhaps sometimes reach a peaceful and respectful divorce.

If we do, wars and violence will one day be seen as an uncivilized thing of the past: Like slavery, absolute monarchy, cannibalism and other things humanity fortunately has decided to abolish. 



  • Nuclear Talks
  • sanctions
  • Sweden
  • Syria