Mohammad Ataie writes: During the past few months, Iranian diplomats have contacted the Syrian opposition to assist the Assad-led reform and facilitate negotiations between the president and the opposition.
According to the Iranian ambassador to Damascus, their contacts have been extensive and have included opposition leaders in and outside Syria. They have carried messages back and forth between opposition leaders and Damascus and at one point Iranian diplomats, who met Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Turkey, even offered a roadmap for reconciliation between the Islamist group and Assad.
The deal, disclosed by a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, included a power-sharing arrangement that handed the premiership to the Islamist group in return for Assad retaining the presidency. But such efforts have been fruitless in the light of the ongoing violence and the Syrian government’s recourse to a security crackdown.
The recent “multi-party parliamentary election” – which was devoid of meaningful participation by opposition groups – and the formation of the new Syrian government by a member of the ruling Ba’ath party, have in particular disenchanted Iranian officials with Assad’s strategy for a political solution.
Iranian officials, according to various political sources in Tehran, were unhappy with the exclusion of the opposition from the election and the nomination of a loyalist Ba’athist, Riad Hijab, by the Syrian president as the new prime minister. Iranian political and military leaders are dismayed at the over-reliance of Damascus on a security solution and believe that Assad could have done better to lend credibility to his reforms.
A few days ago, in a private conversation, a top general who is in charge of Iran’s key regional files, expressed his frustration with the Syrian president’s failure to heed calls for reform, saying: “Assad takes the pills in front of us. But once we turn our heads, he spits them out.”
A year and a half into the Syrian crisis, Iranian leaders have seen themselves drawn into a protracted crisis that has strained Iran’s broader strategic interests in the region. The vortex of violence and unrelenting bloodshed in Syria bodes ill for Iran’s soft power and its credentials as the standard bearer of resistance in the Islamic world. As Hamas has distanced itself from Damascus, this crisis is also posing a serious challenge to the “axis of resistance” – the alliance of Syria, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.
In the eyes of the Iranian leadership, civil war and sectarian violence in Syria only benefit Israel. In their view, the ramifications of sectarian violence in Syria extend far beyond Syria’s borders and could entirely shift the anti-Israeli struggle to a regional Sunni-Shia conflict that could isolate Iran, a predominantly Shia and Persian state, that presents itself at the heart of Muslim anti-Israel and anti-US struggle in the region.
Iran, though certainly intent on safeguarding its key regional ally, does not see its fundamental interest in a security crackdown, but rather in reform and serious dialogue between Assad and the opposition.
In the strategic thinking of the Islamic republic, a political solution is essential for long-term stability in the Levant and the protection of its regional interests. This is where Iran’s interests intersect with current international diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the crisis. [Continue reading…]
Al Jazeera reports: Iran on Tuesday offered to use its good ties with Damascus and Ankara to help resolve the row between the two countries over Syria’s downing of a Turkish warplane.
Syria’s shooting down of the jet last Friday was “a very sensitive issue” that also concerns Tehran, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said, just ahead of an emergency NATO meeting on the incident.
“We will use our good relationship with the two countries to resolve the issue,” Ramin Mehmanparast said in his weekly news briefing.
“It should be resolved through restraint and negotiations and [the two sides] should avoid measures that disturb the security of the region,” he said. “We hope this issue will be resolved rapidly.”