Last week, in “Obama, Kerry Throw In The Towel: US Prepared To Accept Assad Regime In Syria,” we noted that for the first time, Washington and Riyadh had begrudgingly allowed Tehran to have a seat at the table in negotiations for a political “solution” to the crisis in Syria. This of course makes sense given that it is indeed Iran and its proxy armies that are doing the vast majority of the fighting on the ground in support of Assad (they’re also doing the vast majority of the fighting in Iraq but that, for now anyway, is another story).
Of course this makes for an extraordinarily awkward scenario. This is the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey attempting to negotiate with Russia and Iran in the same room and when the doors close and the media aren’t within earshot, you can bet the “diplomacy” goes out the window. After all, Russia and Iran are well aware that the West and its regional allies have been funneling guns and money to ISIS, al-Nusra, and God only knows who else for years in an effort not only to oust Bashar al-Assad, but to undermine Shiite influence in the Arabian Peninsula. That’s not exactly the kind of thing that diplomats can simply look past even if they want to, and on the other side of the equation, Moscow and Tehran are pretty clearly looking to encircle Saudi Arabia and boot the US from the region in what amounts to a Mid-East coup.
Making matters worse (or at least more surreal) is the Iran nuclear deal. In short, it makes Washington look completely ridiculous that Tehran has now essentially invaded a country that shares a border with Israel on the way to bolstering not only the capabilities of Hezbollah, but their international reputation as well (the group is now apparently a “liberator” of nations). Meanwhile, Netanyahu is virtually powerless to do anything about it, as Putin has effectively established a no-fly zone over Syria.
In short: it would be fun to be a fly on the wall in Vienna about now.
Well sure enough, we’re starting to get a look at just how contentious the talks have become. As Reuters reports, it only took one meeting for Iran to lose patience with the Saudis. Here’s more:
Iran said on Monday it would pull out of Syria peace talks if it found them unconstructive, citing the "negative role" of its main regional adversary Saudi Arabia, according to state Iranian media.
World and regional powers including Iran and Saudi Arabia met in Vienna on Friday to discuss a political solution to Syria's civil war but failed, as expected, to reach a consensus on the future of President Bashar al-Assad. Iran backs Assad in the war while Saudi Arabia supports rebels seeking to oust him.
It was the first time Tehran and Riyadh were at the same table to tackle a war that has evolved into a wider proxy struggle for regional dominance between Russia and Iran on Assad's side and Turkey, U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states and Western powers who support rebels to various degrees.
"In the first round of talks, some countries, especially Saudi Arabia, played a negative and unconstructive role … Iran will not participate if the talks are not fruitful," ISNA cited deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as saying.
And while Iran accuses the Saudis of “playing a negative role”, the Saudis have of course accused Iran of “occupying” Syria:
At a regional security conference in Bahrain on Saturday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said a major stumbling block to agreement at the Vienna talks had to do with the timing of the departure of Assad.
"The second has to do with the timing and the means of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria – in particular, Iranian forces, which, incidentally, we view as an occupying force," Jubeir added.
As we’ve noted on a number of occasions, Iran was invited to Syria by the government. ISIS and al-Nusra most certainly were not, so there’s a certain degree to which the “occupying” force is in fact that Saudis and their proxy armies. In any event, back to Reuters:
Iran's Abdollahian said Jubeir was insisting that "those present in the meeting should decide the fate of the legal president of Syria ... instead of the Syrian people." He also denied that Iran had any combat forces in Syria.
"They are military advisers who went there at the request of Syrian regime to fight against terrorism," he said.
"We said that Iran has increased its presence in Syria in recent weeks. It's none of Saudi Arabia's business how the Islamic Republic is fighting against terrorism."
It’s hard to argue with that, and if that’s the kind of rhetoric that’s getting leaked to the press, you can only imagine what’s being said behind closed doors.
Of course we would note again that this is just further confirmation that the US is on the wrong side of history here. No one is saying that the Ayatollah or Bashar al-Assad are the most benevolent leaders in the history of statecraft, but Washington is supporting regimes that are directly aiding the very same Sunni extremists that the Western media are holding up to the world as the scourge of humanity. As Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said last week, that borders on the insane.
Meanwhile, even Stratfor is out noting that a deeper dialogue between Washington and Tehran is inevtiable given Iran's stepped up role in international affairs:
"Despite Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's repeated warnings that Iran cannot trust the United States in discussions beyond the nuclear issue, the reality is that the nuclear deal was merely the stepping stone to a much broader strategic dialogue."
Yes, a "strategic dialogue" which one imagines will be particularly amusing, as Washington attempts to explain why Iran has been banished to the status of pariah state and relegated to an "Axis of Evil," while the Saudis (who have executed 142 people this year) are somehow the "good guys" even though they're supporting the very same extremists everyone claims to be fighting.
Finally, in yet another example of a leader the Western public used to look upon as an enemy making statements that suddenly seem remarkably sober, here's the Ayatollah's opinion on the idea that a group of foreign powers should be allowed to decide the political fate of a soveriegn state:
"There's no point in other countries getting together and deciding about a system of government and the head of that state. This is a dangerous innovation which no government in the world would accept being imposed on itself. The solution to Syria's problem is elections."
So there you have it America. You are now being lectured on democracy by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Alexis de Tocqueville is rolling in his grave.
We close with the following brief excerpt from Reuters:
Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Monday it is preparing a contract to supply Iran with S-300 missile systems, Interfax news agency reported.