Possibility for Iran to Play Important Role

28 October 2013 | 15:30 Code : 1923570 Interview General category
An interview with Mohammad Shariati Dehaghan, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs and Iran’s former cultural attaché to Syria
Possibility for Iran to Play Important Role

Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Syria, has recently visited Iran. What is, in your opinion, the objective of this visit?

What has been stated is that Lakhdar Brahimi has visited Iran to arrange the holding of the Geneva-2 conference. As he has mentioned in his remarks, the presence of Iran in this conference is natural and necessary. It is natural because Iran is one of the influential countries of the region and it is necessary because Iran is one of the influential countries in the issues related to Syria and without Iran the resolution of the present crisis would be impossible. Therefore, Lakhdar Brahimi seeks the presence of Iran in the Geneva-2 conference for he knows that Iran’s presence is a must.

What developments have occurred that now, contrary to the Geneva-1 conference, Iran’s presence in this conference is welcomed?

Iran and Saudi Arabia were not present in the Geneva-1 conference. Right now it has been proposed that in order to reach a solution the presence of both Iran and Saudi Arabia is necessary. Iran’s recent relations with western countries, particularly the US, have prepared the ground for its participation.  

What are the areas of opposition to Iran’s presence in this conference?

The Syrian opposition and those who are effective in holding the Geneva-2 conference are not yet certain whether Iran should be invited to this conference or whether they should set pre-conditions for it. One proposed condition is that Iran must accept all articles adopted in the Geneva-1 conference, because the Geneva-2 conference looks to enforce the agreements reached in Geneva-1. But the timing of this conference and Iran’s presence have not yet been made certain. First, the end of next month was proposed for this conference and now there are talks about holding it in the second month of the upcoming new year.

Why is this conference continuously postponed?

The reason is that different parties to this crisis are not ready to reach an agreement and a single solution. The Syrian opposition, in particular, is faced with their differences and the radical factions and it seems that they have to make decisions about these radical groups. Right now, two important radical groups among the Syrian opposition are active; one is the al-Nusra Front which is affiliated with al-Qaeda and the other is “Daesh” which is the abbreviation of the Islamic Government of Iraq and Sham and has even had conflicts with the al-Nusra Front.

What is the significance of this conference?

As you know, the UN has recently stated that it is facing problems in delivering aids to the people of Syria for 2000 armed groups are present in the whole country and this is very destructive for the future of Syria. It seems that the crisis in Syria has been transformed from a military and political dispute into a human tragedy, particularly with the coming of the cold season which will create numerous problems for the Syrian refugees and those displaced. I believe that all countries, including Iran, must make efforts to improve the situation in Syria and reduce the catastrophic crisis which has crippled Syria and for many years to come will involve this country and the entire region.

To what extent have the agreements reached in the Geneva-1 conference been implemented so that one could be hopeful about the Geneva-2 conference?

None of the agreements reached in the Geneva-1 conference have been implemented. One of them is the cease-fire and the resolution of humanitarian issues. The other issue is the establishment of the interim government which should have complete authority so that it could reduce the intensity of the crisis. But it seems that the government of Syria does not accept the interim government to have authority over the army and providing security and states that the interim government can only be active in the resolution of the economic problems. The government of Syria just does not want the interim government to have any authority over the army and security issues. This is one of the areas of difference and Russia has not yet reached the conclusion that it must exert pressure on the Syrian government to accept this issue. This is while with regard to the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons, the destruction of which was to the benefit of Israel, the US and Russia, Russia exerted pressure on the Syrian government and Bashar Assad had no choice but to accept it.

Thus, Russia and the US have not yet reached an agreement in the context of the Geneva-2 conference and only seek to show that they are active in resolving this crisis. But the main problem is that neither Russia nor the US has found an alternative for the government of Bashar Assad. As soon as they find a suitable and acceptable alternative, from the regional and international aspects, for the Assad government, then Bashar Assad will not be able to stand against regional and global pressures.

Have there been any changes in the situation of the opposition since the Geneva-1 conference?

As I pointed out earlier, there are differences among the Syrian opposition and the radical groups have seriously infiltrated them and are very active in the operational scene of Syria. The Free Syrian Army and the coalition of the opposition must solve the crisis in Syria in order to find a place for themselves in the international scene. It means that they should dominate the liberated regions in order to have the upper hand in these developments otherwise the international community will neither accept the al-Nusra Front nor the Islamic Government of Iraq and Sham. Sooner or later these conflicts must be resolved. There are reports of the killing of the leader of al-Nusra Front but no matter if he is killed or not, this conflict must happen on the scene so that the Free Syrian Army and the coalition of the opposition would dominate the situation and then they will be able to play a role in the political developments. But right now since the conflicts have not reached the point where neither the government nor the opposition has been able to take power and control the situation; that is why neither side is willing to negotiate and resolve the problems. Bashar Assad is more willing to negotiate because he has the power to make unilateral decisions to dominate certain regions against the opposition which are in weak positions. But this does not mean that if the position of the opposition is weak, then the West has accepted for the Bashar Assad government to continue its task and remain in power.

How helpful can Iran’s presence in the Geneva-2 conference be?

It seems that the present atmosphere is the best opportunity for Iran to present a political solution. Saudi Arabia has lost hope about implementing its plans. It seems that Turkey is also reviewing its behavior with regard to Iran and Iraq and is lowering its demands from Syria. Thus, under the present conditions, if Iran succeeds in presenting an acceptable political plan, it will be considered by all as the solution to this crisis. Iran has also taken proper positions with regard to the usage of chemical weapons before the others; hence, it can be active in this conference to find a solution to end this crisis.

You mentioned an acceptable plan. What issues should be covered by this plan?

As I mentioned before, such a plan should have a specific framework. This means that, for example, a government should come to power which is, on one hand, approved by Iran and, on the other, does not reiterate the presence of Bashar Assad in the future presidential election. Iran can introduce acceptable personalities for the government who are supported by the moderates among the opposition and the government of Syria.

tags: iran bashar assad syria

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