Iran in Syria talks; a missing piece of the puzzle

Tehran, November 12, The Iran Project –The latest round of Syria talks in late October in Vienna introduces a player that has long been considered the missing piece of Syrian conflict puzzle. To be sure, all previous international efforts have done nothing to stop the fighting partly due to Iran’s absence.

The inclusion of Iran in the talks for the first time ever in both first and second round of Vienna Syria talks in mid-November brings up key questions about the grounds, reasons and outcomes of Iran’s invitation. Some additional points, however, are worth discussing here before moving ahead.

Iran’s participation initially marks a shift from US and Saudi Arabia stagnant policy toward Iran. For the Saudi Arabia, recognition of Iran as an influential player in the future of region is a bitter pill to swallow. This was particularly evident in Saudi foreign minister frequent clashes with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif in Vienna talks, although it had apparently dropped the refusal against Iran’s attendance before the talks.

No need to say that it all along had feared that nuclear negotiations would expand Iran’s influence in the region. Having to admit Iran’s presence in talks unlike the real dissatisfaction partly signifies the Kingdom’s weakness against Iran. This is largely out of the realization that with Iran’s absence, Syria peace talks would end up nowhere.

The truth is that the incident comes amid growing military successes of Syrian government forces. With Russia launching airstrikes, Iran’s advisory assistance and Hezbollah presence, the military balance in Syria has shifted to a significant extent since September. The Western-backed terrorism in Syria is on the verge of defeat and this makes it more understandable why they change their diplomacy on the Syrian ground. Plus, it also came a little more than three months after Iran’s enhanced position in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.

As per the reasons behind Iran’s involvement, the White House now takes the need for Syrian peace talks serious, understanding that military path is no longer a viable solution to four-year ongoing crisis.

Secondly, the lessons learned from previous round of talks in absence of Iran and deterioration of situations have urged them to believe that Iran’s involvement is highly essential in efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict, otherwise any plan for the future of Syria is doomed to fail. This is mainly because Iran has been the main force that supports Syrian people’s struggle to prevent the total collapse of the country.

Furthermore, Iran’s unique ties with Syrian government and its diplomatic weight particularly after the nuclear breakthrough in last July have turned it to a game changer without which no plan for not only Syria but also any crisis management in Middle East is possible.

Regardless of the talks’ outcomes, the very participation of Iran in Vienna talks signals Iran’s growing regional influence, which Saudis monarchs and the US are loath to concede. The outcomes of Syria talks represent a major concession to Iran’s growing regional power, as well.

The joint statement of Vienna talks declares that the United Nations will convene a political process which helps prepare the new constitution and new election, making no mention of political transition based on the US and its allies’ willing.

In short, Iran seems to be making significant headway, as it playing an increasing active role in international arena.