Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari paints a somber picture of the Syrian crisis. He expects fierce fighting to drag on for years, accompanied by continued suffering and casualties, as all concerned parties have resorted to a “crisis management policy” rather than suggesting solutions. He described the US-Russian deal to destroy Syria's chemical weapons as a mere “appeasement that everyone needs.”
“There is no international will to change the balance of forces on the ground. Now, everyone is caught up in the crisis — the Syrian government, the opposition and international parties,” he said.
In an interview with Al-Hayat on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly summit, Zebari expressed his belief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “certainly surviving” in power, and that “there are no preconditions for him to step down” before the start of the political process.
He said that the Syrian opposition and the regime have abandoned any preconditions to take part in the Geneva II conference, “as a result of international pressure.” He noted that the conference is expected to be held in late October or early November. He added that the chemical weapons issue will be separated from the international conference in Geneva. “They will be parallel to each other, yet will not intersect with each other,” he said.
Zebari said, “Certainly, Syria will not be stable, and the great rupture of the social fabric will not heal easily, because of the bloodshed and killings that have affected almost everyone ... It is very difficult for any regime to survive forever. Without a responsible international intervention to find real solutions, the crisis is expected to drag on.”
He stressed that “all Turkish, Gulf, Iraqi and Arab strategies did not lead to any solution,” and the conflict is outside the circle of influence of regional parties. It has become “bigger than the regional powers. It is a struggle of international wills, and the Syrian crisis is being discussed during talks and deliberations of [the main] international powers in the UN Security Council, which are Russia and the United States.”
Zebari considered that the US-Russian deal to disarm Syria “may be a sign directed at the Iranian side that there are international obligations by which all states abide.” He stressed that the meeting between the American and Iranian foreign ministers within the P5+1 group meeting is “very significant and is a change indicating that the US or the Western side wants to reach a settlement with Iran under any circumstances.” He expressed his belief that Iran "proposed new stances to address this issue through serious negotiation, some practical measures and by changing the negotiating team and sending reassuring messages. Yet, the upcoming negotiations are what will prove how serious the parties are.”
On the relationship between Iran and Iraq, Zebari said that the two countries have “different positions regarding the Syrian issue,” and strongly rejected the argument that Iraq is affiliated with Iran. He pointed out that the number of aircraft carrying Iranian military support to Syria has significantly decreased and that Iraq has not handed over any Iranian oppositionists present on its territory to Iran.