Hitting Syria to deter Iran ? | Al Jazeera America
Barbara Slavin voit des signes en faveur d’une solution diplomatique par le fait que les Etats-Unis semblent accepter l’Iran dans la table de négociations.
Proponents of tougher action against Tehran have long argued that muscular U.S. intervention to remove the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would deal a heavy blow to Iranian influence in the region. Syria, after all, is Iran’s only durable ally among Arab nation states — it was the only Arab country that sided with Iran during the 1980-88 war with Iraq. Syria is also the conduit for Tehran’s delivery of weapons and money to Hezbollah, the most powerful pro-Iranian organization in the Arab world.
As the civil war has dragged on, however, the notion that removing Assad would be a pure strategic win for the United States and its allies has become muddied. Ironically, if Assad were to be removed now, the biggest beneficiaries would likely be Sunni Muslim radicals who hate Iran as passionately as they do Syria’s Alawite minority, Israelis and the U.S.
Then there’s the fact that Iran is one of only two foreign countries with real leverage over the Assad regime — the other is Russia. For the past two years, the U.S. has resisted calls to include Iran in multilateral talks on Syria’s future, but that position appears to be changing as the Syrian crisis deepens and a less confrontational government has taken office in Iran.
Russia and the United Nations have insisted for months that Iran, as a key outside player in the conflict, must be invited to any new peace talks in Geneva if there is to be any chance of progress toward a political solution. The Obama administration refused but later hedged, noting that the U.N. would be the one to issue invitations.
In his interview with the PBS Newshour on Aug. 28, Obama appeared to open the door a bit wider to participation by Tehran. “We hope that, in fact, ultimately, a political transition can take place inside of Syria, and we’re prepared to work with anybody — the Russians and others — to try to bring the parties together to resolve the conflict,” he said.
While Obama did not clarify whether “others” included Iran, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman was in Tehran a day earlier meeting with Iran’s new Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Feltman is currently U.N. Undersecretary General for political affairs, but the Iranian press identified him as a “senior U.S. official.”
"Mr. Feltman shared the U.N. position that Iran, given its influence and leadership in the region, has an important role to play and a responsibility in helping to bring the Syrian parties to the negotiating table," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.
It’s a safe bet that Feltman would have informed his old bosses in Washington of Zarif’s response. Sultan Qaboos of Oman, a long-time intermediary between the U.S. and Iran, was also in Tehran this week, and Syria was almost certainly discussed.