A week ago, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura defied everyone regarding an international conference for Syria and insisted on inviting Iran, saying: “The United Nations and myself have the right and will be inviting everyone, including Iran.” Dear envoy, why invite Iran when it rejects the decisions of the two previous Geneva meetings?
He justifies his concern over Iran by using the excuse that it is influential in Syria. Since invitations are being distributed based on influence, the United Nations might as well invite Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as these two terrorist groups are more influential on the ground than Iran and its allies!
After all these months since he was appointed in September, the international envoy has decided to impose Iran on the Syrians in Geneva. However, the war on the ground has not taken the path that he, Iran or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had hoped for. The rebels have recently achieved a series of victories the likes of which we have not seen in almost two years.
Assad’ forces have been defeated in Idlib, Jisr al-Shughour and the Brick Factory Camp, and fighting is 40 kilometers from the city of Latakia. Fear has been reflected in the capital Damascus as currency trading has quickly declined from 260 to 300 Syrian pounds to the dollar.
Of course, it is de Mistura’s right to invite whoever he wants to Geneva. However, he has killed the conference before it even convened due to his management style and snobbish rhetoric.
He will not be capable of imposing a solution on the majority of Syrians just because he thinks Iran is influential in the war, as Tehran and the Syrian regime do not represent more than 15 percent of the people. Even the sons of the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs have begun to profess their desire to get rid of the regime’s symbols.
The international envoy can do whatever he wants, but he will not be able to stop the fighting. He will fail just like the Russians did with their conference, which was only attended by Syrian government representatives and those affiliated with it.
De Mistura has spent most of his time with Assad, and has not given any attention to the opposition. He then decided to hold a conference that matches the needs of the Damascus regime. The question is what can the conference achieve if no acceptable ideas are developed?
The participants at the two previous Geneva conferences reached a solution of forming a government consisting of the opposition and the regime but without the latter’s leadership (the Syrian regime did not agree to this, Sharif is saying). This was a middle-ground solution that represents the highest ceiling of concessions. There is no point in holding Geneva 3 without accepting this principle.
The international envoy has nothing with which to threaten the opposition, as Iran has been present with all its force in Syria for the past two years, using its men from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, Tehran has not succeeded at achieving any victory, unlike the opposition, which is fighting the Syrian regime and besieging it in its bases. The regime has nothing with which to scare Syrians, as it has already displaced tens of millions and murdered more than a quarter of a million.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 28, 2015.
De Mistora, why don’t you invite ISIS as well to Geneva?