Everyone in the world is upset with the killing going on in Syria, just not enough to actually stop it. As proof, I’d point out that two rounds of peace talks have led nowhere. Part of that is the nature of the conflict, and part of it is the fact that not all parties are represented — most notably Iran.
It’s only logical to negotiate an agreement by having all the interested parties at the table. Quite simply, if a deal is made, everyone involved has to be in on it or it won’t be kept. It’s known as the “I never agreed to that” theorem.
And Iran has a huge interest in what happens in Syria. Syria and Iran have been best friends since 1979 when the Shah of Iran fell. After Egypt made peace with Israel, Syria needed a new ally in the region, and the mullahs offered just what the Ba’athists in Damascus needed. They’ve been sharing resources and know-how ever since. Any deal that doesn’t have Iran at the table will be undermined by Iran as a matter of principle.
However, there is also a grand strategic reason for including Iran that has little to do with Syria’s civil war. At this juncture, Iran may be trying to reintegrate itself into the world community — its willingness to discuss its nuclear program and have it monitored in exchange for the unfreezing of some assets is proof that it is reconsidering its previous confrontational attitude.
To keep the momentum, including Iran in any Syrian peace conference creates additional opportunities for negotiation. It acknowledges a simple fact: Iran is the regional power after Israel. And by acknowledging that, the Iranian theocrats get the prestige they so desperately want. Never underestimate the value of national pride and stroking the other side’s ego.
One of the arguments against including Iran is based on the fear that Iran will somehow sabotage the talks to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria. This is plausible, but I am afraid it is also irrelevant. There’s nothing to sabotage.
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The basic problem with the Syrian Civil War is that both sides want unconditional surrender of the other. The regime of Bashar al-Assad wants the rebels in jail so it can torture them to death, and the rebels just want to reverse the roles so they can torture the current government’s people.
It doesn’t help that the Americans and the Russians are playing Cold War games in Syria. The Russians want al-Assad to stay in power because Syria is their last toe hold in the Middle East. The Americans want him gone because he’s pro-Russia, pro-Iran and anti-Israel. In an environment like this, there isn’t going to be any deal that brings peace.
Let me state my position plainly — I see no plausible diplomatic solution to Syria, nor do I see a military solution. This killing will go on for a few more years. Nonsense from the right and the left that a more muscular American policy or some such bull could resolve this betrays a howling ignorance of what is going on there. Neither side is prepared to let the other survive the fight, and no one will negotiate the terms of his own extinction. Above all, neither side has the firepower to destroy the other.
Since the talks are doomed to fail anyway, let Iran play. It will help elsewhere, and there is no downside.