During United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi’s recent trip to Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed a new plan for ending the 19-month crisis in Syria.
The proposal, which was welcomed by Brahimi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calls for a ceasefire between the parties to the conflict, the dispatch of humanitarian assistance to the people affected by the violence, national dialogue between the government and the opposition, and a referendum to determine the political future of the country.
During his recent trips in the region, Brahimi declared that his primary objective would be to persuade the two sides to agree to a ceasefire on Eid al-Adha, which is one of the main holidays of Muslims and which occurs on Friday. However, the extremists and Salafists in Syria are totally opposed to any proposal for peace and are continuing their terrorist attacks on civilians and government institutions. Over the past few months, they have repeatedly refused to hold dialogue with the government and this makes the prospects for Brahimi’s plan all the more grim.
The obstinacy of the opposition is not the only reason for the failure of Brahimi’s mission in Syria. Certain regional countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, seem to have no interest in reaching a political settlement of the crisis in Syria. However, even Turkey, which is one of the main opponents of the Syrian government, has accepted Iran’s proposal for peace. Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan responded positively to the plan after being informed of its details by Brahimi. But Saudi Arabia and Qatar have spent more than $36 billion over the past 19 months to destabilize Syria and it will not be easy to convince them to halt their support for the terrorist groups operating in the country.
As long as the two Arab monarchies continue to provide funds and weapons to the Syrian rebels, international and regional efforts to convince the opposition to engage in talks will come to naught. But if they cease their interference, the opposition would have no option but to come to the negotiation table.
Hassan Hanizadeh is a political analyst and an expert on Middle Eastern issues based in Tehran.
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