The Americans’ costly snub to Iran may be a major factor in further destabilizing relations in the Middle East. The ill-advised move could be considered a diplomatic faux pas, but the American reaction and insistence in rescinding the invitation may prove to be the last nail in the coffin in the Syrian peace talks process. The talks are to begin on Wednesday in Montreux, and then move on to Geneva on Friday.
The Russians are adamant that no peace talks on Syria can bear any fruit unless and until Iran is invited to the negotiation table. America, though, has shown double standards in this regard. As far as the Iranian nuclear ambitions are concerned, Americans have been successful in reaching an interim Joint Action Plan but on the issue of Syria, the Americans, fully aware of the fact that Iran is a major stakeholder in the entire process, are toeing a completely different–and dangerous–line.
The human rights record of Assad’s regime is shocking, and it is basically with the backing of Iran that Assad is prolonging his rule. It is no secret that Iran is aiding Assad’s Shiite regime with money, weapons and trained fighters. Iran is doing so because it is the sole stable Shiite power in the region. Further, its nuclear capacity gives it added leverage to meddle in the internal affairs of Syria and Iraq, two countries with embattled Shiite governments. Both Syria and Iraq are engaged in a bloody fight against their own Sunni citizens.
Saudi Arabia, the Sunni power in the region, is backing the Sunni rebels both in Syria and Iraq. The matters have reached a point where some of the rebel fighters are now being led by pro Al-Qaeda militants against both these unpopular regimes. The Syrian National Coalition, a motley crew of various militant factions, wants to meet the representatives of Assad face to face in order to end the civil war which, according to a guarded estimate, has led to 100,000 dead citizens. The Syrian opposition insists that they will not have any peace talks where Iran is a participant. Assad also seems to have changed his stance appreciably in the recent months, as he is ready to contest elections which, in the recent past, he was not willing to contest. In a recent interview, he gave to a French news agency, Assad made it clear that “I will not hesitate for a second to run for election. In short, we can say the chances for my candidacy are significant.” This statement can be viewed in light of the controversial snub to Iran by the Americans.
The other major stakeholder in this Geneva II Syria Peace Talks is Russia. Russia is not at all happy how the matters are proceeding, and has made it clear to the rest of the 40 participants of the peace talks that no substantial headway can and will be made unless Iran is made an integral part of the whole process.
In such circumstances, it is all but clear that the Syrian opposition will not be a part of any peace negotiations wherein Iran is a party. On the other hand, Assad’s regime and its representatives will not sign an accord without the active participation and consent of Iran. The Americans’ costly snub to Iran is proving a dangerous and costly affair.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada
The Washington Post