West, Iran-Syria Axis Headed Towards Uneasy Truce

Article Summary
As the Syrian crisis and the showdown over Iran’s nuclear program move front and center on the world stage, the West has been attempting to treat both crises as a single concern. “Washington and Tehran have never been as close to negotiations as they are today,” writes Habib Fayad, because of the constraints faced by all parties to the crises.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have withdrawn their observers from the Arab League mission to Syria. The Arabs have fulfilled their role, bringing the matter into international circles. On the other hand, the European Union has imposed tight oil and financial sanctions on Iran, while the Arab Gulf countries have expressed their willingness to provide alternative to the banned Iranian oil.

In both cases, these countries are playing the same role: Setting the stage for bringing the Syrian and Iranian crises into international circles, paving the way for international negotiations.

There are some Western attempts to link the Iranian and Syrian crises and put them in one basket. It is not a coincidence that [both] Tehran and Damascus are being placed under European sanctions. The Western camp is trying deal with both crises as one, according to the same mechanism: [imposing] stringent economic sanctions aiming at weakening their systems, and [launching] a Gulf initiative pushing towards compromises.

Dealing with both crises as one comes as a result of the lack of a decisive solution [to end either one]. The Syrian and Iranian files are closely intertwined to the extent that the solution to one depends on the solution to the other. No deal is secured between Iran and the West unless Syria is included as a key item. Similarly, the Syrian crisis will not come to a halt as long as Damascus has Tehran as its ally.

The US President talks about the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the crisis with Iran, while Tehran has backed down from its bellicose warnings to close the Strait of Hormuz, despite sanctions and the arrival of an American aircraft carrier to Gulf waters, with the support of the British and French.

Apparently there has been a consensus between Iran and the G6 on resuming negotiations. The Iranian nuclear issue is making a comeback on the international scene after an absence of more than one year. However, despite their clear introductions, these negotiations are still treading in uncharted waters. The European role in this regard is limited to paving the way for Iranian and American negotiations, without mentioning Iraq’s attempt to widen the gap between the two sides.

Nevertheless, Washington and Tehran have never been as close to negotiations as they are today. The nuclear file is no longer the essence of the problem. It has become the introduction to the actual negotiations. However, Iran is not willing to make any compromises in the nuclear weapons file and the West is well aware of this fact. The upcoming negotiations will either generate multiple, comprehensive understandings, sound the trumpets of war and confrontation.

On the other hand, the Arab Gulf’s withdrawal from the Syrian crisis will open the way for the Arabs to take part in the Iranian-international negotiations, along with Turkey. The upcoming talks are likely to take place in Istanbul, where all the concerned parties will be present at the same table. In return for [being given] its share in Syria, Iran could give the US and the West their shares in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Russia seems more adamant in rejecting the option of military intervention and sanctions [on Syria]. Moscow is trying to influence the Turkish position, pushing Ankara to appease the escalating opposition to the Syrian regime. Turkey, on the other hand, has its eye on certain [Iranian] interests in Iraq, and is trying to take them away from Tehran under the guise of the tense relations with Maliki's authority.

The Iranian nuclear capability has become a reality. [Under these circumstances,] it is preferable for the West to overlook [Iran’s nuclear program] as long as the military option remains unlikely and sanctions fail to push Iran towards a change in position - even if it is economically drained. As for the Syrian crisis, it has entered into the throes of an agonizing settlement. Although the revolution has bled it dry, Syria has managed to exhaust all means of bringing down the system.

Will the truce lead to a solution? Will the West ever refrain from playing the sanctions card on Damascus and Tehran, whether on the "basis" that there is no uranium enrichment in Syria, or no demonstrations in Tehran calling for the overthrow of the regime?

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