Iran Daily, Jan 21: Is Tehran’s Syria Policy in Trouble?

LATEST: FM Zarif — I Told UN’s Ban Several Times That Iran Would Not Accept Syria Pre-Conditions

All issues concerning Iran — even the start of implementation of November’s interim nuclear deal — were overtaken on Monday by the dispute over the United Nations invitation to Tehran to attend Wednesday’s international “peace” conference on Syria.

After months of a US veto on Iran’s participation, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued the invitation on Sunday. However, he was forced to withdraw it after Tehran refused to commit itself to a proviso that President Assad step down from power in favor of a transitional governing authority.

A regular EA contributor summarized, “Iran snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to take advantage of the utter turmoil in Western policy circles, who were caught completely off guard after [Tehran] had received and accepted the invitation.”

The Islamic Republic is likely to watch from the sidelines as the “Geneva II” conference convenes on Wednesday. It will issue comments backing the demand of the Assad regime that the confrontation of foreign-backed “terrorists” is the main concern of the gathering. Of course, Tehran continue its economic and military support of Damascus, in the expectation that the conference will achieve little and attention will soon return to the political and military battlefield.

Iran is also likely, with Russia, to prepare the propaganda line over the failure of the conference: namely, that the problem is the “extremists” in the opposition.

Doing so, it will effectively come back to its declaration Monday that President Assad cannot be forced from power. And, post-conference, it may face less resistance than it did yesterday.


FM Zarif: I Told UN’s Ban Several Times That Iran Would Not Accept Syria Pre-Conditions

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has declared that — contrary to statements by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon — Iran never accepted the proviso, in return for attendance at the “Geneva II” conference on Syria, that President Assad must step aside for a transitional governing authority.

Speaking to reporters during a mission to Turkmenistan, Zarif said, “Mr Ban called me several times. I told him directly that we won’t accept any preconditions to attend Geneva II.”

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

15 COMMENTS

  1. A regular EA contributor summarized, “Iran snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to take advantage of the utter turmoil in Western policy circles, who were caught completely off guard after [Tehran] had received and accepted the invitation.”

    Not really. Under heavy U.S. pressure the foreign sponsored exile opposition to Syria’s government had agreed, with less than half of its membership voting yes, to come to Geneva. It now found a reason to draw back and set an ultimatum for Ban Ki-Moon to withdraw the invitation to Iran or the opposition would withdraw.

    The Iranian foreign ministry made their position clear. As Iran has not taken part in the Geneva I conference it can not be held to or be expected to accept all its results.

    Meanwhile,Assad , who has long agreed to come to Geneva President Assad, has made clear that he will not step down or let the foreign sponsored hotel opposition take over the country, so he is clearly not signed onto any said agreement. I don’t see Ban Ki-Moon uninviting him.

    The fact is that no one, including Ban Ki-Moon, has the authority to call for Assad to step down.

    It is Ban Ki-Moon who has egg on his face, not Iran.

  2. I just came across another far more cogent and realistic analysis of the events that led to the flip flop from Ban Ki-Moon .

    Russia had been pushing for Iran’s inclusion in the talks for months, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered the last second invitation more or less out of the blue yesterday, leading to furious US State Department reactions and a threat from what few Syria rebels were planning to attend in the first place to withdraw if Iran wasn’t uninvited by 2 pm today.

    The UN, apparently unwilling to live with the egg that’s plainly on their face after the past 24 hours, followed up their uninvitation with an feigned condemnation of Iran for refusing to endorse the US calls for regime change in Syria.

    Iran had never suggested they were going to accept the US calls in the first place, and that was a chief reason the US opposed their invitation, insisting that the only people who could attend the talks were those who had accepted regime change as the goal, and also the Syrian government itself and Russia, who both oppose the plan. The US cheered their disinvitation as a chance to get the talks “back on track,” by which they mean centered on regime change.

    In other words, the UN and the US knew all along that Iran were never going to sign onto the policy of regime change. Indeed, Russia has not endorsed it either, which goes to show that Ban Ki-Moon is resorting to a false narrative to save face.

    The suggestion that it is Iran’s interests to back away from support for Assad just to secure a seat at the table is absurd.

    • The framework for negotiations would have been the Geneva communique, which Russia co-authored and encouraged Iran to adopt. The communique itself is broad and ambiguous, with no explicit call for regime change or even for Assad to step down. To declare that the Geneva communique is the foundation for regime change is just an act of positioning by the US and others, the same way that Russia has consistently said that Assad is going nowhere.

      Had Iran agreed to adopt this broad and ambiguous framework for negotiations, and therefore attend the talks, it would have put the onus on the US and the Syrian opposition to make the next move. Since the opposition had threatened to pull out if Iran attended the talks (and this is after being arm-twisted into attending in the first place), the talks would have likely disintegrated, leaving Russia and Iran in a significant position of strength, and the US further weakened and caught with its pants down (again).

      Instead, and in line with its role as a spoiler, Iran refused to adopt the communique. This is exactly what Russia wanted to avoid, since it had worked so hard over the past couple of weeks to legitimate its diplomatic initiative, which included appearing as the rational actor by bringing Iran back into the fold. Now it is Russia and Iran that look stupid, particularly Russia, who, intent on blocking any outcome from the talks that will threaten its interests in Syria, will now have to shed its image as a mediator and reemerge as the spoiler.

      This is not to say that the US and the UN come out of this looking any better than Russia and Iran; the UN in particular has embarrassed itself to no end. However, the US has been handed an important lifeline by Iran.

      In the grand scheme of things, everyone comes out of this looking stupid and incapable.

      • Pak,

        The communique itself is broad and ambiguous, with no explicit call for regime change or even for Assad to step down.

        I agree, but that’s not how the US sees it. Early last week, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov were talking about partial ceasefires and serious measures to end fighting on the ground, but after the Assad government endorsed those plans, the US changed starkly, and now says any attempt to talk about ceasefires is an attempt to “distract” from the goal of removing Assad from power.

        Had Iran agreed to adopt this broad and ambiguous framework for negotiations, and therefore attend the talks, it would have put the onus on the US and the Syrian opposition to make the next move.

        Sorry, but Iran were uninvited before they were asked to agree to any framework for negotiations. Russia had been pushing for Iran’s inclusion in the talks for months, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered the last second invitation more or less out of the blue yesterday, leading to furious US State Department reactions and a threat from what few Syria rebels were planning to attend in the first place to withdraw if Iran wasn’t uninvited by 2 pm today.

        The UN, apparently unwilling to live with the egg that’s plainly on their face after the past 24 hours, followed up their uninvitation with an feigned condemnation of Iran for refusing to endorse the US calls for regime change in Syria.

        I fail to see how you can claim that Russia and Iran woudl have been left in a significant position of strength when Iran were already uninvited. Iran were given no say in the matter and as I already explained, the excuse that Ban Ki-moon came up with was after the fact.

        Instead, and in line with its role as a spoiler, Iran refused to adopt the communique.

        No, as I explained, Iran were uninvited BEFORE the matter of the adoption the communique was even raised. It is not Russia hat looks stupid, it’s Ban Ki-moon.

        And no, the US has not been handed any lifeline by Iran. They are still insisting that they need Assad to remain in place to help them implement their own agenda of removing him, so their position looks as absurd as ever.
        http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2014/01/20/rebels-joining-syrian-talks-but-assad-won-depart-soon/X8AjHSy2BN5PqImslILBHP/story.html

      • No not really. Iran and Russia thought they could get one over on Uncle Sam and we quickly squashed that notion. It must have been humiliating for Iran and Russia. The only thing Iran is interested in is keeping their mass murdering tyrant in power at any cost so they can keep shipping huge amounts of advanced arms to their terrorist proxies in Lebanon to threaten Israel and other Lebanese who don’t like being dominated by Iran. It was a victory for the US.

        • Iran and Russia thought they could get one over on Uncle Sam and we quickly squashed that notion.

          What do you mean get one over Uncle Sam? The US threw a public tantrum over the matter and obviously had to pull every string and twist every arms it could find.

          It must have been humiliating for Iran and Russia.

          Hardly. Everyone knows Geneva II is going to be a failure regardless.

          The only thing Iran is interested in is keeping their mass murdering tyrant in power at any cost so they can keep shipping huge amounts of advanced arms to their terrorist proxies in Lebanon to threaten Israel and other Lebanese who don’t like being dominated by Iran.

          No. Obama admitted long ago that the only reason the US are even involved in this mess is because they want to overthrow Assad to get at Iran. They have no interest is preventing the blood shed, or they would do it by demanding the Saudis stop supporting the head chopping, organ eating, suicide bombing crazies.

          Hezbollah are not interested in threatening Israel, other than to ward off yet another attack/invasion/occupation by Israel against Lebanon.

          It might have been a temporary pyrrhic victory for the US, but they are looking more desperate and unhinged than ever.

        • Speaking of humiliation, now the only rebel faction involved in the talks, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), has lost its large internal party, the Syrian National Council, which is withdrawing from the talks, from the coalition, and from participation in the international community’s dealings in general.

          The Council is citing its objections to the Geneva II talks as a reason for its decision, saying it rejects any negotiated settlement with the Assad government. This leaves the already small SNC even more irrelevant among the rebels.

          Yet the SNC remains literally the only show in town in Montreaux, as the much larger Islamist factions have likewise rejected the talks and in many cases weren’t even invited.

          The US insists the goal of the talks is to impose regime change to “end the violence,” but with materially all of the rebel combatants uninvolved in the conference there’s no reason to think it’s going anywhere.

          So that whole tantrum about Iran joining the talks was for naught. How sad.

  3. What exactly, is Ban’s exact words and statements. I think western media is mis-reading the situation. I am reading the situation differently.

    If Iran had acknowledged that the Syrian opposition is composed of Syrian citizens with legitimate grievances then I think they would be going to Geneva. Russia has backed away from the position that all opposition is a foreign backed conspiracy of terrorists. They don’t accept the precondition of Assad’s removal and yet they are being treated as a rational actor.

    • If Iran had acknowledged that the Syrian opposition is composed of Syrian citizens with legitimate grievances then I think they would be going to Geneva.

      No. There is nothing Iran could have said to have been re-invited back to Geneva. They were not uninvited because of their position, but because the US and the rebels threw a tantrum.

      Russia has backed away from the position that all opposition is a foreign backed conspiracy of terrorists.

      When did they do that?

      They don’t accept the precondition of Assad’s removal and yet they are being treated as a rational actor.

      Seeing as Assad enjoys majority support in Syria, this is indeed the rational position. Or do you suggest democracy should not apply?

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