Can Iran play a part in Syria’s peace and unity?
Inviting Iran may be interpreted as the international community’s increased faith in Iran’s ability to shape regional issues
The opportunity that Iranian leaders have been waiting for suddenly knocked on their door when they received a joint invitation by the United States and Russia to attend the Syria talks in Vienna last Friday.
It’s no secret that Iran is heavily involved in the Syrian crisis in different ways. From supporting the current government of Bashar al-Assad to having military advisors on the ground (according to them) and sending artillery – Tehran is doing everything to keep its ally in power.
Iran’s invitation to the Vienna Talks has demonstrated that international powers believe that Iranian officials, not a delegation from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (who are operating on the ground in Syria), should be the ones sitting around the table. This could be a means of using Iran to influence Assad and other allies, such as Hezbollah, to cooperate with the outcome of the talks.
Inviting Iran may be interpreted as the international community’s increased faith in Iran’s ability to shape regional issuesCamelia Entekhabi-Fard
Despite Iran’s previous rejection of talking about Syria with Western powers, a high level delegation did indeed go to Vienna. And Iran’s diplomacy machine may be the main driver here, or the driver that Western powers wish to take advantage of – with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif using the skills in the Syria talks previously seen during the nuclear talks. Inviting Iran may be interpreted as the international community’s increased faith in Iran’s ability to shape regional issues.
By agreeing to participate, Iran may be preparing itself and the Syrian government for a transitional period following Assad’s exit, if they wouldn’t directly admit this.
The general sentiment from Western and regional countries was that Iran’s presence at the talks seem to be a positive development. When he returned to Tehran, Zarif said the talks were progressive. His comment shed light on the possibility that the talks can reach a solution that may result in Assad’s departure.
It may too optimistic to predict an end to the conflict in the short term, but I believe there is hope that major steps will be taken before the end of President Obama’s presidency.
For Iran, the invitation to join Syria talks may also seem like a reward for a country that has isolated itself from international community in a mostly hostile manner for more than three decades since the 1979 revolution.
The nuclear accord has brought on a unique momentum that has created a window for Iran to not only improve its relations with the world, but also to stand among major players. While parties in the talks may be divided about whether and for how long Assad should stay in power, all countries agreed that a political solution is needed to end this protracted conflict.
Demonstrating flexibility in the negotiations is the most important fact at these talks for the sake of millions of devastated Syrians in the eye of this horrifying storm. The destruction of this ancient nation, along with the atrocities committed in this conflict, need to be addressed.
Regardless of who is the next president of Syria, what is important is peace, freedom of expression and unity of Syria. Now it’s time to put differences aside and demonstrate responsibility.
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
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