The Saudi–Iran rift over Syria

Syria Deeply sought the opinion of several experts. Nader Hashemi said: In broad terms, the recent fallout only serves to entrench existing positions. These positions have long solidified over the course of the past five years. The recent deterioration of relations and antagonism between Saudi Arabia and Iran do not, in my reading, fundamentally change this dynamic.

The fallout at this stage does not completely undermine the Vienna Peace Process. Both Saudi and Iran, over a series of several meetings, basically agreed to a broad framework that was enshrined in a U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254 on December 18. Now the ball is out of the court of the Iranians and Saudis and is in the court of the Syrian actors and Staffan de Mistura. That’s the next stage of the Vienna process – to try and bring Syrians from both the Assad regime and the opposition around the table. Thus, at this stage, Iran and Saudi Arabia really don’t have much to contribute. Perhaps, as a result of recent events, they might decide to take a more hardline stance when it comes to determining which Syrian rebel groups are terrorists and can have a seat at the table and which cannot.

I’m very skeptical about the Vienna Process. I think it was essentially dead on arrival because it assumes that after five years of a neo-genocidal war, and having already gone down this road before in Switzerland in January 2014 with Lakhdar Brahimi, that somehow something substantial has changed. Why should anyone assume that just because the regional and international powers have agreed to a broad framework, all of the Syrian participants in this conflict are going to meet in Geneva at the end of January, kiss and make up, and agree to some unity government and peace plan? There is little room for optimism on this point. [Continue reading…]

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