January 27, 2014 | Quote
Ban’s Syrian Bungle Defriends Iran’s Mullahs
This week's near-fiasco about who should be invited to the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, that resulted from a private telephone conversation between the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, has served a purpose.
The embarrassing on-again, off-again invitation helps to understand how to deal with the likely pitfalls that will emerge in future diplomacy with Tehran over its nuclear ambitions.
Ban nearly derailed the most important diplomatic initiative of his tenure as U.N. chief when he announced Sunday that Zarif had agreed to terms that would allow Iran to participate in the international conference on Syria designed to bring an end to the civil war there. The U.N. chief announced that Tehran's representatives would be invited to the talks in Switzerland that opened Wednesday.
“The Iranians don't have an option in Syria that's not Assad,” explained Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who closely follows Lebanon and Syria. Dismissing past reports, which contended that Iran may help to find an alternative to Assad, perhaps among his fellow Alawites, Badran said, “There is no such thing. There is no alternative power.”
The lesson of this week's phone call between Ban and Zarif is that there is a difference between “oral assurances that are given, maybe, to you, and you, maybe, hear what you want to hear in them, versus what the Iranians actually do and what they actually believe in,” said Badran.
It is also that major national security decisions over Syria and nuclear enrichment are ultimately made by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who can very quickly and decisively overrule any assurances given by the likes of Zarif – and even, for that matter, Rouhani.