World
Nikolai Bobkin
February 1, 2014
© Photo: Public domain

The first round of Geneva-2 international conference is over. The future of Syria remains as uncertain as it was. The talks happened to be nothing more than a formal reason for the continuation of the dialogue between the opposing parties sticking to confronting positions. There had been enough doubts about the outcome of the conference even before the event kicked off. The United Nations Secretary General sent an invitation to Iran at the last moment and then called it back in a few hours under the United States pressure. Then Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned, «If this list of countries invited does not include Iran, then, in my opinion, the conference will resemble a profanation». Tehran never hid its doubts about the chances for the conference to succeed. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused UN chief Ban Ki-moon of bowing to outside pressure to rescind Tehran's invitation to a peace conference on Syria and said the forum was likely to fail, «We regret that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has withdrawn the invitation under pressure». He added, «It is also regretful that Mr. Ban does not have the courage to provide the real reasons for the withdrawal». According to him, «Iran's exclusion shows this body changes its opinion under the influence and pressure from the US». He noted that the United States and other forces had blood of Syrians on their hands. As is known, the Secretary General admitted the decision to invite Iran to the conference was taken after consultations with many parties. The inappropriate behavior of the United States exerted no influence on the new Iranian foreign policy team, President Hassan Rouhani went to Davos World Economic Forum and delivered a sensational speech confirming his readiness to normalize the relationship and develop full-scale cooperation with the West. 

Talking about the Syrian crisis, the President of Iran expressed pessimism about fruitfulness of the ongoing International Geneva-2 Peace Conference on Syria saying that the gathering does not seem to be perfectly aware of the circumstances and realities of the Syrian crisis. Upon his arrival back home from the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, President Rouhani said that the Syrian issue will not be resolved in such conferences (as the Geneva-2 talks). «I told some European leaders that in case of the Syrian issue the first step is making a collective decision to encounter the terrorism, and to deport the terrorists from Syria», stressed the Iranian President. Rouhani reiterated that the second point is that everyone should decide to assist the Syrian people who are entangled with many problems today, both those who are inside Syria and the Syrian refugees, so that they would manage to achieve better living conditions. The President said that the point is that everyone’s efforts should be aimed at providing an appropriate ground for negotiations between the Syrian opponents and the Syrian government so that they would manage to make decisions about the future of Syria. «If anyone thinks he can make decisions (about the Syrian nation) outside Syria, he is making a mistake. It is the Syrian nation that must decide about its own future. Appropriate conditions for holding a free and fair election in the future need to be provided», he added. He has a reason. The terrorist international harbored in Syria poses a threat to the Syrian President’s allies, as well as to Western sponsors of militants. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected a dialogue with the terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian army. «A dialogue with terrorist groups fighting in Syria will not be held under any circumstance», he said. «We refuse holding a dialogue with terrorist groups, it is against our principles, and we didn't advice others to do that», Lavrov told the Russian NTV channel in an interview. «The negotiation process has no room for groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other branches of al-Qaeda organization». The Russian foreign policy chief added that reaching a political accord between the government and the national secular opposition, in addition to helping them unite in the face of terrorism in parallel to the political settlement is the aspired goal. Iran is ready to foster the process aimed at ending the hostilities in Syria. The fact it took no part in the conference does not change anything, Iran had predicted the failure of Geneva-2 before it started. The country remains to be the chief ally of President Bashar Assad, it is adamant in its resolve to continue military and financial aid to Syria no matter what Washington thinks about it. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Islamic Republic has deployed no armed forces on Syrian soil; its military presence is limited by instructors. The Minister stressed that the Syrian opposition cannot overthrow Bashar Assad what makes necessary a dialogue between the parties. As to him, hostilities should be stopped first to open the way for improving the humanitarian situation. Then political changes could be brought to the agenda. Otherwise the war may last for three years more. According to Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if free elections are held in Syria, Bashar Assad will carry the day. Iranian experts predict the President will win 50-60 percent of the vote. 

Tehran believes the United States efforts to convert Geneva-2 into a prelude for depriving the Syria’s President of power constitute a strategic error. 

Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and Africa Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the Monteux conference on Syria is a political show and a failure. He underlined that the international conference will not achieve any appropriate outcomes and needs more sessions in order to help settle the Syrian crisis. Iran believes the Obama’s Syrian policy is an absolute flop. Washington has refused so far to think about what will happen in case of hypothetical forceful regime change in Syria…The experience of revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya shows radicals take advantage of the situation and fill the void after a government is toppled spreading instability around. Today the prospects are at least blur for the Arab states hit by revolutions. 

Gholamali Khoshroo, Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam and the Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister under Seyed Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, believes the United States attempts to find an alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad have are «a failed project», but the administration is not resolute enough to change the policy due to inertia. According to Khoshroo, «The Americans are, for the time being, following on the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, though they may actually have different viewpoints on the situation in Syria. The American officials have admitted that they are currently confused about the situation in the Middle East. They have already failed to establish peace between Palestinians and Israel and have been also unable of having a correct political understanding of the overall situation in the region as well as the ongoing developments in Yemen and Egypt. If they are really planning to go ahead with the democratic process, they have to take advantage of democratic means. For example, they cannot instigate the military in Egypt to come into the streets, suppress the popular protests, hold a referendum under the threat of tanks, and then expect the same people to accept a military commander as their new president. Such measures have been already taken in, for example, Afghanistan and have led to deplorable results. The United States should return to the recognized conventional principles of international law, which include fighting against the violence, occupationism and foreign intervention. It is reminiscent of the law of the jungle that a few neighboring countries would reach the conclusion that they do not like a specific country and then deploy forces to that country in order to change its government. Saudi Arabia is spending a lot of money, but did all the money it spent on stoking unrest in Iraq bear any fruit? Did the investment it made to bring Taliban to power [in Afghanistan] produce any good results? Saudi Arabia has been practically behind all military, political and security crises and challenges in the region and in all cases, it has been the main loser as well. As a result of the strategic relations that the United States has with Saudi Arabia, Washington is, for the time being, following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia». (1)

Kayhan Barzegar Ph.D. is Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran. He believes, «it is odd that the American policy makers, who are typically interest-oriented, are repeating the same mistake in Syria as they made in Afghanistan and Iraq. By minimizing Iran’s role in the regional crises, they are actually making the process of finding a sustainable solution to the crisis most costly. Unlike the nuclear case that Iran wants to see the end result, that is the recognition of its right to enrich uranium, at the beginning of the negotiations, when it comes to the Syrian crisis, it is in the process of the negotiations that Iran can play it constructive role in forging political consensus among involved parties. In other word, when Iran is ensured that it is a part of the game, it adopts a more cooperative approach. By excluding Iran from the Geneva 2 conference, it seems that another opportunity for creating consensus among regional players has been easily lost. This will mean nothing but the prolongation of the Syrian crisis for some more time and that every regional player would have to take its own independent approach to handle this crisis. However, the United States really needs to change its traditional style of dealing with regional issues that is to follow policies that encourage states to line up against each other. This approach has mostly served to break up any political consensus among major regional players, encouraging them to pursue their own specific policies in handling a crisis. This is the crux of continued crises in the region». He believes «the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia, angry about a recent nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, especially with the United States, have been taking every action in their power to reduce and contain Iran’s regional role through the Syrian crisis. In Iraq, the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is taking advantage of the opportunity to further strengthen his coalitional government and domestic political stance by directly linking the national security of Iraq to the issue of fighting terrorism and extremism, spilling over into Iraq as a result of the ongoing crisis in Syria». Kayhan Barzegar thinks Washington is badly in need for finding a more sophisticated approach, which would essentially serve to bolster regional cooperation. (2)

Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Kerry said the US expected Iran to deliver on its nuclear proliferation pledges. After flying in from Syrian peace talks in Monteux, Kerry said there would never be a lasting settlement until Assad had gone. «This one man must step aside», he said. «Assad can’t be part of it because of the havoc he has wreaked on his own people». He described Assad as the «single biggest magnet for Jihad and terror». (3) The United States says it is concerned over Sunni radicalism. So is Tehran. It would be rational to expect the United States get closer to deal with Iran to provide regional balance, and establish the relationship going beyond the joint efforts on the nuclear program. But the Obama’s administration thinks otherwise. The US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that: «We have been very clear and the Iranians, I think, have been clear, certainly in our discussions, that these are separate issues. The nuclear negotiations are one set of negotiations, and the discussion about if Iran should go to Geneva II or what role they can play in Syria are completely separate. The negotiations over Iran's nuclear program represent a path and those related to Iran attending the Geneva II conference and the role it plays in Syria is completely separate». Iranian experts are puzzled by the statement. According to them, it strikes an eye that the United States has no consistent Syrian policy. The Obama’s team turns a blind eye to the threat posed by Saudi Arabia-sponsored radical Islam based on violence. 

As is known, the United States’ policy on Iranian nuclear program has come under harsh criticism on the part of Saudi Arabia and Israel. It was harsh enough to make John Kerry say on NBC's «Meet the Press», «We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid. I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe». Kerry assures that the most serious, capable and competent people in the US government with great experience of dealing with Iran tackle the nuclear program issue. Is it so? By the end of the summer in 2013 the US experts on Iran pushed the United States to the brink of unleashing a perilous military adventure against Syria… They looked at the problem through the prism of confrontation with Iran. It’s obvious the catastrophe was prevented not by the resoluteness displayed by the President of the United States, who was hesitant to take any concrete action, but rather the initiative launched by President Putin on elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and thus doing away with the cause for starting a conflict. 

Endnotes: 

(1) Iran’s Opponents in Syria Case Suffer from Strategic Color Blindness. An interview with Gholamali Khoshroo, Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam. January 23, 2014.
(2) Kayhan Barzegar. Political Consensus is Key to Syria Peace Conference. January 26, 2014.
(3) Can Washington Dance with Tehran When They're Listening to Different Music? Foreign Policy. January 22, 2014.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
Geneva-2: Look from Tehran

The first round of Geneva-2 international conference is over. The future of Syria remains as uncertain as it was. The talks happened to be nothing more than a formal reason for the continuation of the dialogue between the opposing parties sticking to confronting positions. There had been enough doubts about the outcome of the conference even before the event kicked off. The United Nations Secretary General sent an invitation to Iran at the last moment and then called it back in a few hours under the United States pressure. Then Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned, «If this list of countries invited does not include Iran, then, in my opinion, the conference will resemble a profanation». Tehran never hid its doubts about the chances for the conference to succeed. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused UN chief Ban Ki-moon of bowing to outside pressure to rescind Tehran's invitation to a peace conference on Syria and said the forum was likely to fail, «We regret that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has withdrawn the invitation under pressure». He added, «It is also regretful that Mr. Ban does not have the courage to provide the real reasons for the withdrawal». According to him, «Iran's exclusion shows this body changes its opinion under the influence and pressure from the US». He noted that the United States and other forces had blood of Syrians on their hands. As is known, the Secretary General admitted the decision to invite Iran to the conference was taken after consultations with many parties. The inappropriate behavior of the United States exerted no influence on the new Iranian foreign policy team, President Hassan Rouhani went to Davos World Economic Forum and delivered a sensational speech confirming his readiness to normalize the relationship and develop full-scale cooperation with the West. 

Talking about the Syrian crisis, the President of Iran expressed pessimism about fruitfulness of the ongoing International Geneva-2 Peace Conference on Syria saying that the gathering does not seem to be perfectly aware of the circumstances and realities of the Syrian crisis. Upon his arrival back home from the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, President Rouhani said that the Syrian issue will not be resolved in such conferences (as the Geneva-2 talks). «I told some European leaders that in case of the Syrian issue the first step is making a collective decision to encounter the terrorism, and to deport the terrorists from Syria», stressed the Iranian President. Rouhani reiterated that the second point is that everyone should decide to assist the Syrian people who are entangled with many problems today, both those who are inside Syria and the Syrian refugees, so that they would manage to achieve better living conditions. The President said that the point is that everyone’s efforts should be aimed at providing an appropriate ground for negotiations between the Syrian opponents and the Syrian government so that they would manage to make decisions about the future of Syria. «If anyone thinks he can make decisions (about the Syrian nation) outside Syria, he is making a mistake. It is the Syrian nation that must decide about its own future. Appropriate conditions for holding a free and fair election in the future need to be provided», he added. He has a reason. The terrorist international harbored in Syria poses a threat to the Syrian President’s allies, as well as to Western sponsors of militants. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected a dialogue with the terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian army. «A dialogue with terrorist groups fighting in Syria will not be held under any circumstance», he said. «We refuse holding a dialogue with terrorist groups, it is against our principles, and we didn't advice others to do that», Lavrov told the Russian NTV channel in an interview. «The negotiation process has no room for groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other branches of al-Qaeda organization». The Russian foreign policy chief added that reaching a political accord between the government and the national secular opposition, in addition to helping them unite in the face of terrorism in parallel to the political settlement is the aspired goal. Iran is ready to foster the process aimed at ending the hostilities in Syria. The fact it took no part in the conference does not change anything, Iran had predicted the failure of Geneva-2 before it started. The country remains to be the chief ally of President Bashar Assad, it is adamant in its resolve to continue military and financial aid to Syria no matter what Washington thinks about it. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Islamic Republic has deployed no armed forces on Syrian soil; its military presence is limited by instructors. The Minister stressed that the Syrian opposition cannot overthrow Bashar Assad what makes necessary a dialogue between the parties. As to him, hostilities should be stopped first to open the way for improving the humanitarian situation. Then political changes could be brought to the agenda. Otherwise the war may last for three years more. According to Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if free elections are held in Syria, Bashar Assad will carry the day. Iranian experts predict the President will win 50-60 percent of the vote. 

Tehran believes the United States efforts to convert Geneva-2 into a prelude for depriving the Syria’s President of power constitute a strategic error. 

Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and Africa Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the Monteux conference on Syria is a political show and a failure. He underlined that the international conference will not achieve any appropriate outcomes and needs more sessions in order to help settle the Syrian crisis. Iran believes the Obama’s Syrian policy is an absolute flop. Washington has refused so far to think about what will happen in case of hypothetical forceful regime change in Syria…The experience of revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya shows radicals take advantage of the situation and fill the void after a government is toppled spreading instability around. Today the prospects are at least blur for the Arab states hit by revolutions. 

Gholamali Khoshroo, Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam and the Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister under Seyed Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, believes the United States attempts to find an alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad have are «a failed project», but the administration is not resolute enough to change the policy due to inertia. According to Khoshroo, «The Americans are, for the time being, following on the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, though they may actually have different viewpoints on the situation in Syria. The American officials have admitted that they are currently confused about the situation in the Middle East. They have already failed to establish peace between Palestinians and Israel and have been also unable of having a correct political understanding of the overall situation in the region as well as the ongoing developments in Yemen and Egypt. If they are really planning to go ahead with the democratic process, they have to take advantage of democratic means. For example, they cannot instigate the military in Egypt to come into the streets, suppress the popular protests, hold a referendum under the threat of tanks, and then expect the same people to accept a military commander as their new president. Such measures have been already taken in, for example, Afghanistan and have led to deplorable results. The United States should return to the recognized conventional principles of international law, which include fighting against the violence, occupationism and foreign intervention. It is reminiscent of the law of the jungle that a few neighboring countries would reach the conclusion that they do not like a specific country and then deploy forces to that country in order to change its government. Saudi Arabia is spending a lot of money, but did all the money it spent on stoking unrest in Iraq bear any fruit? Did the investment it made to bring Taliban to power [in Afghanistan] produce any good results? Saudi Arabia has been practically behind all military, political and security crises and challenges in the region and in all cases, it has been the main loser as well. As a result of the strategic relations that the United States has with Saudi Arabia, Washington is, for the time being, following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia». (1)

Kayhan Barzegar Ph.D. is Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran. He believes, «it is odd that the American policy makers, who are typically interest-oriented, are repeating the same mistake in Syria as they made in Afghanistan and Iraq. By minimizing Iran’s role in the regional crises, they are actually making the process of finding a sustainable solution to the crisis most costly. Unlike the nuclear case that Iran wants to see the end result, that is the recognition of its right to enrich uranium, at the beginning of the negotiations, when it comes to the Syrian crisis, it is in the process of the negotiations that Iran can play it constructive role in forging political consensus among involved parties. In other word, when Iran is ensured that it is a part of the game, it adopts a more cooperative approach. By excluding Iran from the Geneva 2 conference, it seems that another opportunity for creating consensus among regional players has been easily lost. This will mean nothing but the prolongation of the Syrian crisis for some more time and that every regional player would have to take its own independent approach to handle this crisis. However, the United States really needs to change its traditional style of dealing with regional issues that is to follow policies that encourage states to line up against each other. This approach has mostly served to break up any political consensus among major regional players, encouraging them to pursue their own specific policies in handling a crisis. This is the crux of continued crises in the region». He believes «the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia, angry about a recent nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, especially with the United States, have been taking every action in their power to reduce and contain Iran’s regional role through the Syrian crisis. In Iraq, the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is taking advantage of the opportunity to further strengthen his coalitional government and domestic political stance by directly linking the national security of Iraq to the issue of fighting terrorism and extremism, spilling over into Iraq as a result of the ongoing crisis in Syria». Kayhan Barzegar thinks Washington is badly in need for finding a more sophisticated approach, which would essentially serve to bolster regional cooperation. (2)

Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Kerry said the US expected Iran to deliver on its nuclear proliferation pledges. After flying in from Syrian peace talks in Monteux, Kerry said there would never be a lasting settlement until Assad had gone. «This one man must step aside», he said. «Assad can’t be part of it because of the havoc he has wreaked on his own people». He described Assad as the «single biggest magnet for Jihad and terror». (3) The United States says it is concerned over Sunni radicalism. So is Tehran. It would be rational to expect the United States get closer to deal with Iran to provide regional balance, and establish the relationship going beyond the joint efforts on the nuclear program. But the Obama’s administration thinks otherwise. The US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that: «We have been very clear and the Iranians, I think, have been clear, certainly in our discussions, that these are separate issues. The nuclear negotiations are one set of negotiations, and the discussion about if Iran should go to Geneva II or what role they can play in Syria are completely separate. The negotiations over Iran's nuclear program represent a path and those related to Iran attending the Geneva II conference and the role it plays in Syria is completely separate». Iranian experts are puzzled by the statement. According to them, it strikes an eye that the United States has no consistent Syrian policy. The Obama’s team turns a blind eye to the threat posed by Saudi Arabia-sponsored radical Islam based on violence. 

As is known, the United States’ policy on Iranian nuclear program has come under harsh criticism on the part of Saudi Arabia and Israel. It was harsh enough to make John Kerry say on NBC's «Meet the Press», «We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid. I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe». Kerry assures that the most serious, capable and competent people in the US government with great experience of dealing with Iran tackle the nuclear program issue. Is it so? By the end of the summer in 2013 the US experts on Iran pushed the United States to the brink of unleashing a perilous military adventure against Syria… They looked at the problem through the prism of confrontation with Iran. It’s obvious the catastrophe was prevented not by the resoluteness displayed by the President of the United States, who was hesitant to take any concrete action, but rather the initiative launched by President Putin on elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and thus doing away with the cause for starting a conflict. 

Endnotes: 

(1) Iran’s Opponents in Syria Case Suffer from Strategic Color Blindness. An interview with Gholamali Khoshroo, Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam. January 23, 2014.
(2) Kayhan Barzegar. Political Consensus is Key to Syria Peace Conference. January 26, 2014.
(3) Can Washington Dance with Tehran When They're Listening to Different Music? Foreign Policy. January 22, 2014.