Will Rowhani shift Iran’s policy on Syria?

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed Iran’s wishes to take part in the Geneva conference which is supposed to take place on June 25.

“If invited, we will definitely take part at the international Geneva conference on Syria,” Salehi said on Saturday June 22, at a joint press conference with his visiting Lebanese counterpart Adnan Mansour, in Tehran.

Iran’s positive gesture to participate in the Geneva peace talks comes after an open invitation addressed to Dr. Hassan Rowhani, the newly elected president, by the French president last Wednesday. President Francois Hollande said if Dr. Rouhani’s participation were beneficial and constructive, France would welcome him in Geneva.

There is a possibility that Iran would be willing to change its diplomacy toward Syria. It’s not hidden from anyone that Iran can easily ask Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

It was the French government and its president that for sometime resisted Iran’s involvement in Syria related peace talks. In a very dramatic shift France suddenly decided to invite Iran’s newly elected president and recognized Iran’s importance as a guest at Syria’s conference. The changes came after the presidential election in Iran and when Rowhani became president by winning a popular vote.

At his first press conference after the election Hassan Rowhani credited France, and its former President Jacques Chirac, for their good initiative in attempting to deal with Iran’s nuclear file. Rowhani’s high praise of France and its former president was returned with an invitation a few days later by President Hollande to attend Geneva’s peace talks.

Rowhani’s personal relations were built during the time he was serving as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. His remarkable diplomatic skills and good reputation make for a very positive mood among the international community, especially western powers.

The world, which was preparing itself for a declaration of war with Iran over the controversial nuclear program, was suddenly surprised by Rowhani’s election and his positive aim to finalize the negotiations.

The first salute came from the French president by the warm open invitation for Rowhani to attend the Geneva peace conference. Actually we shouldn’t blame President Ahmadinejad for all the trouble and confrontational behavior towards Western countries. It’s just policy changes. Ayatollah Khamenei decides to choose peace rather than war and make peace with his own people and the world.

Ready and willing

So it seems Rowhani’s representatives, along with current government officials such as Salehi, are willing to attend the conference as President Hollande asked.

There is a possibility that Iran would be willing to change its diplomacy toward Syria. It’s not hidden from anyone that Iran can easily ask Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and make a deal with the international community. Of course the terms of the agreement are important for Iran, the Iranians need to know to what extent they have to give up supporting Assad to help solve this problem.

Syria’s crisis has affected millions of people who left their houses to seek refuge in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere.

According to the United Nations, more than 4.25 million people have been displaced from Syria and are now living in overcrowded shelters in very poor conditions.

Marixie Mercado of UNICEF said soaring summer temperatures, overcrowding and worsening hygiene were the latest threats facing some four million children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.

This humanitarian crisis is one side of Syria’s disaster and the other side is the conflict itself that day-by-day becomes so drastic. The now two year old conflict is spreading beyond the Syrian border to Lebanon and might soon affect Turkey too.

Unclear about the conference

Still, it’s not clear if the conference will take place on June 25 or not. But with the possibility of Iran’s participation at the conference and their aim of having brighter and more positive presence on the international scene, Iran can play an important role if this country’s importance is recognized. Iran helped the U.S. to overcome the Taliban in Afghanistan by giving them intelligence information and access to the Northern Alliance. What Iran gained after the war was to be named a part of the Axis of Evil by former President Bush.

Now on what condition and on what agreements will Iran give up supporting Bashar Al-Assad, and to what degree?

The Lebanese foreign minister, who arrived in Tehran on Saturday to discuss regional and bilateral issues with the Iranian officials, also warned against the ramifications of supporting the foreign-backed militants in Syria and the spillover of the crisis in Syria into Lebanon and the entire region.

Salehi, however, noted, “If a meeting is supposed to result in delivery of more arms to the mercenaries, prolongation of the Syrian crisis, and destruction of its [Syria’s] infrastructure, we will not participate in that.”


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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