Iranian adviser to avoid Syrian collapse

Timothée Labelle translated by Florence Carre
13 Juillet 2013

The end of June will be the landmark anniversary of the first Geneva conference aimed at finding a solution to the Syrian conflict. But once the final communiqué released, corps and atrocities kept piling up. Could Iran and its brand new president be part of the solution to the Syrian conflict?

July is to host a second conference - Geneva II - gathering actors of Syrian civil war, to give a second chance to international diplomatic strategy. Though, Iran participation has imposed itself as the main source of conflict, threatening to abort negotiations.

Coming from the lobbying of Russian diplomacy, Iran full participation to the peace conference creates two mains issues. Since its declaration, Russian position has tightened other parties’ positions at the conference and has intensified tensions, which doesn’t help to establish the climate of goodwill and mutual understanding needed so badly. Moreover, it adds to negotiations an actor whose rigidity is opposed to Western positions on several issues, especially on the American one concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict. Regarding this issue, Russian position constitutes an obstacle to the efficiency of Geneva II.

However, looking further into this, it appears that Iran’s participation to the conference could be less negative than thought by the French for instance, or the rest of Western countries, for two mains reasons for that.

Iran’s inclusion, a real opportunity


First of all, the main goal of diplomatic meetings on conflict’s resolution, by definition, is to create a dialogue between the parties in order to foster an orderly political transition or at least a quick slackening of hostilities. Therefore, as many actors having a significant influence on the Syrian warring parties as possible should participate to the second Geneva conference.
Meanwhile, President al-Assad’s army is officially backed by Hezbollah – Islamic Lebanon political party, labelled as a terrorist group by some Western governments. Fights opposing pro and anti-al-Assad forces are taking place in Tripoli’s streets and Israel is showing some violent signs of impatience. In the current context of growing regionalization of the Syrian conflict, the participation of an actor having such a significant regional influence should be met with enthusiasm by Western diplomats. At least, it seems to be this logic which motivates the Russian request concerning Iran’s inclusion as well as its will for other regional powers such as Egypt, to take a part in the conference.
Besides, in the past few weeks, significant figures of Iranian diplomacy have shown signs of larger open-mindedness and good faith. Eventually, Iran might not be the obstacle to the resolution depicted by the West…
Also, giving the simple fact that presidential elections were held in Iran last 14th of June, the timing to start negotiations on its participation to the conference couldn’t be better. Despite the fact that the 12 members of the Guardian Council lead Iranian political life, the ascension to power of the moderate candidate Hassan Rohani clearly underlines that an opening of the Iranian political class is possible. So this seems to be a good time for the West and especially the United States, to put aside its discrepancies with the Islamist Republic and to open the dialogue to finally move on.

In order to do so, the frame of the second Geneva conference on Syrian conflict happens to be a great opportunity. To keep on marginalizing Iran at a time that might be a milestone in the opening of its diplomacy to the world, and the pacification of its relation with the West, would display a complete misunderstanding of Syrians’ short-term interests, as well as regional and world ones in the long term.
Of course, the opening of the conference to new actors doesn’t guarantee its success. Indeed its boycott by the Syrian National Council -group formed by a discussed majority but recognised worldwide as the representing organization of President al-Assad opponents- will clearly limit its chance to achieve a broad agreement.

While last February The Economist was tragically mentioning the death of Syria, soon the upcoming conference of July appears to be the perfect remedy to dispense to countries in crisis. Nevertheless, this conference should definitely not content itself with healing the wounds of communities infested by violence that digs further more the gap of sectarian divisions. So, having a look to the whole picture, Iran’s participation to the conference aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis, and preventing its collapse seems to be the best option left. 
Iranian adviser to avoid Syrian collapse