Obama Administration Eager to Include Iran in Syria Peace Talks
The Obama Administration, fresh from giving Iran credibility by agreeing to a nuclear deal in Geneva, is now considering the idea that Iran could join the peace talks regarding Syria scheduled in Switzerland this month. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran could join the talks if it accepted that the talks are meant to lay the plans a new Syrian government if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can be removed from power.
Kerry pontificated from Jerusalem: "Now, could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways for them conceivably to weigh in? Can their mission that is already in Geneva be there in order to help the process? It may be that there are ways that could happen and it has to be determined by Iranian intentions themselves."
Kerry added that ultimately Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations would have to decide the issue. Russia, a strong supporter of Assad, has consistently wanted Iran to participate in the talks, and that sentiment is also held by Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy on the Syria crisis.
Opposition to Iran's participation has been strong in France and the United States, as both support Assad's opponents, and they have insisted that Iran be excluded unless it states it would accept a transitional government taking power from Assad. But now that position has been weakened within the Obama Administration; Iran need not accept the reality of a transitional government, only accept talks to discuss the issue.
Iran has backed Assad with arms and troops from its paramilitary as well as urging Hezbollah to join Assad in his fight. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, backing the opposition to Assad, has been furious at the Obama Administration for leaving Assad in power, backed by the Saudis' enemies in Iran. Kerry met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but there was no public admission of any discussion of Syria, the peace talks, or Iranian participation in the talks.