Iran Hosts Dialogue on Syria Conflict
On November 18, 200 regional politicians as well representatives from Russia and China held a “Syrian National Dialogue” conference in Tehran to discuss an end to violence in Syria. Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned that arming the opposition in Syria would increase “the risk of terrorism” and possibility of violence spilling over international borders. Assad loyalists from the Syrian government were in attendance and none of the attendees identified themselves as being “in opposition to the Syrian regime.”
Radical factions within Syria have also rejected the new opposition coalition as a “Western-backed bloc,” and declared the city of Aleppo an “Islamic state” in a recent video. Thirteen groups participated in the video, including al-Qaida-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra. Leader of the SNC, Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib, responded by stating he would listen to any opposition group that has not joined the alliance, and would “keep in contact with them for more cooperation in the interest of the Syrian people.” Al-Khatib made the comments following meetings with Egypt’s foreign minister Mohammed Amer, during which Cairo was designated the official headquarters of the SNC. European Union foreign ministers have also recognized the SNC as the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people.
In an interview with Al-Monitor, Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, lamented that it is a “good time for discussion” between the U.S. and Iran regarding Syria. Crocker advised that the U.S. continue to utilize its strategic partnership with Iraq in regards to Syria and warned against being hasty in committing to any particular element of the opposition. Echoing this sentiment, a senior State Department official noted that “it is completely fair to say that there are links among…every major crisis in the Middle East. Syria cannot…be viewed in isolation. Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon cannot be viewed in isolation…with so much happening in the region, every country has an interest in bringing about a de-escalation.”