Aug. 4, 2015
- U.S. Reverses Policy to Include Iran in Syrian Peace Talks – Jackson Diehl
At his post-deal news conference last month, President Obama conceded that Iran might use some of the billions it will soon receive to supply the Lebanese Hizbullah with fresh weapons, and he vowed to do his best to stop it. “It is in the national security interest of the United States to prevent Iran from sending weapons to Hizbullah,” he said. At the same time, Obama described the solution to the Syrian civil war as requiring an “agreement among the major powers that are interested in Syria….Iran is one of those players, and I think that it’s important for them to be part of that conversation.” That remark signaled a reverse of Obama’s previous policy of excluding Iran from Syrian peace talks. At U.S. insistence, Tehran was left out of the two conferences held in Geneva in 2012 and 2014.
More important, conceding an Iranian say on Syria contradicted Obama’s goal of stopping its support for Hizbullah. That’s because Iran’s deep support for the Assad regime is driven almost entirely by its use of Syria as a land bridge to the Shiite militia. Hizbullah “is Iran’s aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean,” says Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. The militia deploys tens of thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon aimed at Israel, and it ensures that no government in Lebanon can be formed without Tehran’s consent. Thousands of its fighters are keeping the Assad regime standing in order to preserve this link to Iran.
A serious effort to end Syria’s war will require Obama to choose between challenging Iran’s Syrian land bridge to Hizbullah through more vigorous support for anti-Assad forces, or accepting a settlement that tacitly sanctions a continued Iranian proxy army on Israel’s border. (Washington Post)