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Opinion: Two Positives on the Negative Margins of Geneva II | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Geneva II conference that opened on Wednesday ended before it started. It could even be said that it ended a long time ago, when Sergey Lavrov succeeded in undermining the decisions of Geneva I by adding an air of uncertainty to the fate of President Bashar Al-Assad.

But before we talk about the events of the conference and the misconceptions surrounding it, it is important to touch on two positive outcomes that are indirect results of the disagreements that preceded the journey to Montreux.

First was the argument surrounding who was and was not invited, particularly Iran. It ensured that the main objective of the conference should be the organization of the issue of “political transition” and the formation of a government with full executive powers, which is what the first international Geneva conference called for.

Confirming the inevitability of that “political transition” is very important in the current climate. Some in the field wanted to turn Geneva II into an international conference aimed at declaring war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremists and terrorists. In doing so, they hoped to deflect attention from the main cause of the crisis, which is related to the Syrian opposition and the revolution, and the demands of the oppressed Syrian people. The Damascus regime has planned this, in cooperation with Moscow and Tehran, since the start of the crisis.

It is important in this context to remember the Daily Telegraph’s report from January 21 about the cooperation between the regime and Al-Qaeda. We must also remember comments from Lavrov, Assad and Iranian officials, who sought to create an arrangement guaranteeing that Assad remained within the “cooperation structure,” in order to “eradicate terrorism.”

When Kerry said it was Assad who created this terrorist monster, Russian diplomats quickly encouraged a number of articles saying it was important for an alliance to be created between Assad and the opposition to fight ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front and their affiliates. It is no secret that a number of Arab intelligence agencies have resumed their contacts with the Assad regime based on this misconception.

The second positive outcome is represented in the unexpected invitation to Iran to attend the conference sent by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday morning. This prompted the Syrian National Coalition to threaten to boycott the talks and led to strong criticism from Saudi Arabia, the US, France and Britain, as well as exposing the Iranian position, highlighting its military intervention in the conflict through its Lebanese and Iraqi proxies.

It also shifted the focus to the fact that what was required from Iran was the agreement on the political transition process, which it rejected because it clashes with Tehran’s regional plans.

Since Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s announcement that he would not allow Assad to fall, which was reinforced by Hezbollah and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, the exclusion of Iran represented the final entrenchment of the principle of political transition.

Does that end Assad’s wager, along with those of Russia and Iran, on the truth of recent rumors that America and Western states will have to swallow the bitter pill of being excluded from the region? Will the West have to accept that the trio of Assad, Tehran and Moscow will be the ones to confront ISIS in Syria and elsewhere? This also makes it easier to justify Iranian intervention to undermine regional governments.

Perhaps this is what prompted the speaker of the Iranian Shura Council, Ali Larijani, to announce that “the new Middle East is the in the process of being formed,” which means that there is an implicit wager on attempts to limit Geneva II to discussion of the fight against terrorism, and to assign the task to Assad, Iran and Russia.

If true, Tehran could throw the region’s states into chaos on the pretext of fighting terrorism, paving the way for imposing its own hegemony on the region. The final step is the waning of American power, and for Assad to remain, and for Iran to bolster its axis of regional influence, which it has been building for three decades.

The question that remains is: What prompted Ban Ki-moon to issue an invitation to Iran, which he subsequently had to withdraw? Why did he do it in spite of the fact that Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian had rejected the principle of political transition and reiterated that Iran was a strong ally of Assad just hours before?

Is it because there was someone in the background who planned to destroy the conference to avoid the question of political transition? Did they want to strengthen the terrorists in a way that increased the need for someone to fight them?

In practical terms, this operation hit the conference before it started. It is enough here to read Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallem’s statement, which said “the president and the regime are red lines,” and that the second part of the conference should be held in Damascus, perhaps at Mezze Prison. It was there that ISIS and Al-Nusra were both born and raised, in the bosom of the regime.