Before the recent meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister [Ali Akbar Salehi] had announced his country’s intention to launch an initiative on Syria during the summit. At the time, Salehi said that the Iranian initiative would be “acceptable, rational and principled” and would be “very difficult to oppose”, so what has happened to this initiative? Where is it?
It was noteworthy that during Iran’s closing statement of the Non-Aligned Movement summit, there was no indication of the so-called “Tehran Declaration” regarding the situation in Syria, whether directly or indirectly. According to the New York Times, quoting US diplomats, the Iranians tried in the afternoon of the last day of the summit to pass a separate paragraph on Syria, but failed due to the resistance of Arab delegations. The newspaper also reported that Iran was “first unwilling and later unable to gather support for President Bashar al-Assad’s government”, adding that the Iranians remained silent on Syria before the summit “to prevent disagreements, Iranian officials acknowledged”. The newspaper also cited eyewitnesses when revealing that “frustration was visible on Friday afternoon when the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, could be seen talking and gesturing in the main hall while debating with his Syrian counterpart for nearly 20 minutes”!
So, was there really an Iranian initiative towards Syria? How could Salehi previously announce that this initiative would be presented at the Non-Aligned Movement summit, saying it would be an acceptable proposal and difficult to oppose, and then Iran refrains from putting it forward? As I asked in a previous article: Is it conceivable that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dared to put forward his own proposal to resolve the Syrian crisis during the summit, at a time when the Iranian Foreign Minister announced that his country also intended to launch a special initiative on Syria? What is going on? Clearly we are facing several possible scenarios; either Iran feels it has now become too difficult to save al-Assad, given the facts on the ground, or al-Assad himself rejected Iran’s proposals, given that they may require him to leave in order to preserve the regime, i.e. al-Assad would leave for Tehran and Iran’s allies would remain in the new Syrian regime. Some might say that perhaps Iranian attempts were foiled as a result of Arab opposition in the Non-Aligned Movement summit, and this is also a possibility. But what prevents Tehran from putting forth its initiative outside of the Non-Aligned Movement? There is no logical answer to this question as of yet, which essentially means that Iran is unable to put forth an initiative on Syria, like the Russians, unless it leads to the departure of al-Assad. This is something that the tyrant of Damascus completely rejects, and this reveals – as I pointed out in my previous article “Al-Assad is well aware of what he is saying!” – that the recent television interview conducted by the Syrian President on the eve of the Non-Aligned Movement summit was a call to his allies to give him more time!
Hence, I will conclude by saying that Tehran has failed with regards to the Syrian issue, and that its position now is very similar to that of Russia. Both – Iran and Russia – are capable of disrupting [international efforts], but they are not able to change the reality in Syria. This means that al-Assad is heading towards his inevitable end, perhaps along the lines of Muammar Gaddafi or even worse, but only after destroying Syria in its entirety. This is something that those who are hesitant to adopt practical steps to accelerate his downfall have failed to understand, unfortunately!