Tehran Exerts Its Influence

August 9, 2012

Earlier today, Iranian state television broadcast the opening remarks of a 29-nation conference on Syria hosted in Tehran. Iran is attempting to position itself as a peace-broker for the Syrian civil war.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the conference by calling for a “national dialogue” between the Syrian regime and opposition groups.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran firmly believes that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through serious and inclusive talks between the government and opposition groups that enjoy popular support in Syria,” Salehi said. The Foreign Minister further explained that Iran “rejects any foreign and military intervention in Syria and backs and supports U.N. efforts to resolve the crisis”.

Excluded from the conference were Western and Gulf Arab nations. As I have explained, a sectarian cold war has been underway in the Middle East since the 1980s pitting Iran’s Shi’ite “axis of resistance” against Sunni dominated Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia. Iranian state media said the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan were present.

Salehi listed the other participating nations as: Algeria, Armenia, Benin, Belarus, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Oman, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

Also present at the Tehran conference was the United Nations resident coordinator to Tehran, Consuelo Vidal-Bruce, who read out a statement from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “Both the government and the opposition continues to rely on weapons,” it read, and such actions will have “tragic consequences for the Syrian people.”

With its conference, Tehran is undoubtedly attempting to fill the political vacuum that was created last week by the resignation of Kofi Annan, the former U.N.-Arab peace envoy to Syria. Iran’s aim is to save its fellow Shi’a led Syrian government; therefore, it has to act quickly before less friendly Sunni led governments move to occupy the void.

Salehi announced to the United States Iran’s intention to take a leading role in the peace-brokering process yesterday with an opinion piece in the Washington Post that you can read here:  offering the Islamic Republic’s assistance.

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