Jul 14 2012
By Fatih Abdulsalam
Azzaman, July 14, 2012
Delegates from the Syrian opposition are flocking these days to Moscow, whether those willing to deal with the government in Damascus or those rejecting talking to it.
There is no doubt that Moscow holds the key for any solution with international backing regarding the Syria crisis and the delegates, it seems, are keen to demonstrate to Russian officials that their country’s interests in Syria will be preserved in case of a regime change in Damascus.
The other issue for the delegates rejecting any comprise with the government in Damascus is how to persuade Moscow to drop its opposition to calls for the set-up of a safe-haven for the civilians fleeing fighting.
Despite their efforts and those exerted by many world leaders, the Syrian opposition has failed to bring about a change in Russia’s stand vis-à-vis the crisis in Syria.
But there is one important issue which Syria’s opposition figures do not seem to be aware of.
Moscow does not hold all the cards related to the current events in Syria. Moscow’s calculations are linked to the Iranian stand towards what is happening there.
Moscow has its own interests and strategic balances which it will have to weigh in its dealings with Syria. For some, this might look ludicrous, but in reality preserving the strategic balance with Iran is crucial for Moscow. There are parallels with conditions during the Cold War and Moscow’s ties with the Soviet Union.
Iran has so far categorically opposed a change of regime that will sever its military relations with Hizbollah in Lebanon. Therefore, any movement by the Syria opposition that disregards Iran and its redlines on Syria will be insufficient.
It is important for the radical side in the Syrian opposition not to totally ignore Iran, a country reeling under Western sanctions. A move to bring Tehran to the negotiating table might encourage the government there to redraw its redlines.
Whether the Americans like it or not, Iran can be part of the solution. Iran is the problem in U.S. eyes. But the Syrian opposition is not supposed to toe the U.S. stand.
Iran has its own regional and strategic interests and it acts accordingly. An overture by the Syrian opposition towards Iran will urge that country to see its strategic interests within the regional framework and not inherently linked to a certain party or government.
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