Presence of All Players Necessary in Geneva-2
The Syrian opposition had first stated that they would not participate in the Geneva-2 conference, but with the pressure exerted by the foreign countries, they have now presented a list. Which side, in your opinion, has impacted this decision made by the opposition?
With regard to the process of the Geneva-2 conference, a strategic substitution took place, meaning that the strategy of overthrowing the government which has been pursued until now has not been successful and has been replaced with the strategy of political dialogue. Political dialogue negates the strategy of overthrowing the government. This means that countries which were active in this regard as providers and organizers of forces, arms, and costs must now define themselves within a new framework. What has happened is that now the West has reached the conclusion that, as Obama has stated in the UN General Assembly, the solution to the Syrian crisis is political and within the framework of Geneva-2, so the Arab countries must accept the new situation. This process is the end of the overthrowing project and the beginning of a new process. The US demand has been based on the reason that the US knows that the Arab states have not yet reached this belief in this regard. That is why Lakhdar Brahimi’s efforts in the region to reach a conclusion have been opposed by certain Arab states. For example, Saudi Arabia did not allow Brahimi to visit Saudi Arabia, or in other words, it has not yet accepted the concept of a political solution for this crisis. In the end, the pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia on some of these groups has created problems for them. The majority of these groups are both affiliated with Saudi Arabia and Qatar and also with the US, thus, they are pressured from one side to join the Geneva-2 project and the other side is still hopeful about the overthrowing project and prevents them from participating in this conference. This doubt is the natural result of the pressure of the two groups which do not pursue the same policy with regard to the Syrian crisis.
You mentioned the efforts made by Saudi Arabia to pressure the opposition groups and prevent them from participating in the Geneva-2 conference. What is the reason behind such efforts?
If this project becomes political, then it would mean political defeat for Saudi Arabia which has spent billions of dollars in this regard. The Assad regime being able to bypass this crisis will certainly have ramifications for Saudi Arabia and it might think of revenge. Such issues create concerns for Saudi Arabia; accepting defeat and the possibility of revenge.
Turkey and Qatar played direct roles in the Geneva-1 conference. Considering the fact that right now the Muslim Brotherhood is an important opponent of the Syrian government, what is the status of these two countries in the Geneva-2 conference?
Following the coming to power of the new Emir in Qatar, the policies of this country towards Syria changed. The government of Syria has approved the process that Qatar will no longer interfere in Syrian affairs and within this framework it can be said that Qatar is a relatively neutral country with regard to Syria and has left its former role. Turkey is also faced with contradiction, for, on one hand, it played a significant role in organizing and dispatching forces and arms to Syria to overthrow the government, and on the other hand, is concerned now about al-Qaeda forces pouring into Turkey as they have done in Iraq and Lebanon. The exchange of fire which took place between al-Qaeda and Turkey in the border region of Gaziantep is a very important event which shows that, despite the fact that Turkey has played a role in organizing and dispatching these forces into Syria, it is now in contradiction with itself. Therefore, right now the situation in Turkey is very chaotic because it does not know whether it should continue its previous role or play a new one in line with US policies and it does not know what the cost of this process would be on Turkey’s regional status.
It seemed that in Lakhdar Brahimi’s latest visits, the Europeans have welcomed Iran’s presence in the Geneva-2 conference. Considering the opposition of the Arab countries to Iran’s presence, what, in your opinion, do the Europeans expect from Iran in this conference?
Brahimi’s visits and planning for the Geneva-2 conference indicate that there is a new outlook about this crisis. In the Geneva-1 conference, the US and Russia reached an agreement but right now this outlook is completely different. The fact is that this crisis is complicated and multidimensional. One dimension of it is domestic and the differences between the government and the opposition and that the presence of al-Qaeda complicates the situation. The other dimension is at the regional level wherein Iran supports the government of Syria and Saudi Arabia and Turkey support the opposition. The situation in Egypt is different. The government of Egypt has renewed its diplomatic relations with Syria and was seriously against any attack against this country and it can be said that it is, to a great extent, in line with the Syrian government. The third dimension is at the international level and the differences between Russia and the US. The Geneva-2 conference is planned in a way that if this crisis is supposed to be resolved, the three levels of players of this crisis, meaning domestic, regional, and international, must be present in it. Therefore, Iran’s presence would be necessary within this new framework and since this presence would prove Iran’s major role in the region, it is not pleasant for the Arab states and, on the other hand, the acceptance of this role by the western countries is very difficult for these countries. Hence, Iran’s presence is defined but the resistance of the Arab countries against the new developments is futile and cannot change the realities on the scene at the regional level.
There has been talk that one of the conditions is that Bashar Assad should no longer remain in power. What will Iran’s position be if this happens and will it agree with the no-Assad plan?
There are two issues here. Iran believes that based on the UN Charter, the right to determine the country’s destiny belongs to the people; therefore, it is the people of Syria which must determine who or what group should rule their country in the future. This issue was covered in Iran’s plan as well and shows that Iran has proposed the most progressive plan. This is while Saudi Arabia and different Salafi groups seek to impose their votes on the people. Contrary to the democratic processes, the US also states that Bashar Assad must not be a candidate. This shows that this is an incomplete dialogue and not acceptable. The reason is that people should decide about who, whether it’s Bashar Assad or any other Syrian, has the right to become a candidate and it is the people that should, in the end, determine their destiny. Any elimination or balancing or pre-condition shows the concern of one side and would later show that these countries do not accept elections and the people’s rule. Therefore, the proposal of the issue that Bashar Assad must not be a candidate is from a position of weakness.
Recently, Qadri Jamil, one of the Syrian Prime Minister’s deputies, was removed. He is one of the opponents of the Syrian government and his removal had other meanings as well. What is your opinion in this regard?
The government of Syria has shown that it has the capability to include the opponents and the Minister of National Reconciliation and the Deputy Prime Minister and many of these personalities are present in the current government. This shows that the government has left its old mentality of monopoly in the government and has the capacity to attract and use other groups. But this does not mean being present in the government and acting independently. The government has a general definition the components of which are related to each other. This is while Qadri Jamil acted outside this framework and was removed by Assad. One cannot be present in a government but decide by himself what he should do. It is interpreted that his removal from his position would not mean failure in the process of the expansion of democracy in Syria and this trend will continue its path.
Under what conditions will the Geneva-2 conference be successful and what will be the next path if it fails?
I suppose if all players in the Syrian crisis are present in this conference, or at least the majority who have the power to make decisions reach an agreement, then this crisis can be resolved. But there are groups outside the framework, like al-Qaeda, which can be contained if national consensus is reached for this crisis and the government and the people of Syria would be able to remove them. But the non-presence of all players in Geneva would damage the process and could create problems for this conference and cause it to fail or lead to the decisions made there not being implemented.