It would have been silly in the first place to expect quick and clear results from the commotion over a likely military solution to the Syrian crisis, because of the US-Russian agreement over getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons, and after other developments: the flurry of US-Iranian openness, as part of bringing about better conditions for negotiating over Iran's nuclear program as long as an American military option has been downplayed by the US itself; and Tehran's resorting to, before and during meetings in New York at the end of last month, a campaign of propaganda in which it tried to entice the west, to convince public opinion and lead it to reducing sanctions, which are a burden on its economy.
In the same way, it would have been premature to base calculations on the notion that an American military strike against the Syrian regime was a certainty. The economic interests of the US and its rivals were at the forefront of reasons behind ruling out this option.
The constant in all of this is a path of negotiations that may have been seriously opened between regional and international powers, one that will be difficult to back away from. It was necessitated by the Syrian regime's mistake in using chemical weapons, and it is natural for this path to encounter ebbs and flows, and stumbling here and there.
The US-Russian agreement restored international cooperation, in the framework of the Security Council and United Nations with regard to the Syrian crisis. However, for this cooperation to continue to the point of outlining solutions to the crisis, it needs to go farther than accord between Moscow and Washington. The former is not the only player in Syria, although it enjoys sufficient influence to prevent the Syrian regime from employing its usual tricks, to empty the agreement with the US of its content. Iran's influence in Syria equals that of Russia, especially in the military arena in the Levant. This raises the question of whether one should wait for the repercussions of the US-Iranian rapprochement before expecting anything of the US-Russian agreement on chemical weapons, in terms of moving ahead with a political solution to the Syrian crisis via the Geneva 2 peace conference. If it is a given that Iran expects to be invited to this conference because of its role, after being excluded from Geneva 1, Paris and Ankara are openly saying that Iran should be present, after they were opponents of this during Geneva 1. Those responsible for the conference, the UN, Moscow and Washington, do not have the slightest idea about which other parties should attend. Saudi Arabia was excluded the first time around, to justify excluding Iran. This time, its attendance should be linked to a minimum of accord on what Geneva 2 will produce, especially in terms of the mechanism of establishing a transitional government with full executive powers. Syrian President Bashar Assad should have accepted this, but he has tried to fight it or get around it ever since June 2012. Iran, which is determined to see Assad survive in power until after his term ends in May 2014, has supported him in these efforts. If it will be difficult to see agreement between the Arab and Saudi view over Assad's departure by turning over power to a transitional executive authority, and the view of Tehran that he should stay. Will Washington and Moscow take the initiative to put forward a formula for what the conference will result in, and a mechanism for a transitional period in Syria? Is such a thing possible, in light of the Gulf dispute with both Russia and the US? The questions over continuing the agreement over chemical weapons in terms of a political solution to the crisis are never-ending, and they represent how limited expectations are.
As for the recent openness between the US and Iran, it seemed like the brakes were put on when the Revolutionary Guard criticized the telephone call between President Hassan Rohani and Barack Obama. Then, Tehran declared its intention to see a visit by Rohani to Saudi Arabia, and was obliged to justify some of what he said in New York. All of these constituted signals that this openness requires some internal Iranian moves to be made, while going forward requires following a policy of step-by-step. If American diplomats have begun to understand this, and believe that it is better for them to deal with Rohani like a man who knows what the Supreme Leader wants, and what the stance of the Revolutionary Guards and decision-making centers in Tehran is, to take his steps, then those in decision-making centers believe that rapprochement with Washington requires a negotiation process that could last a decade. If the negotiations are about Iran's nuclear program, and thus the sanctions, Iran's regional role will be exempted from the discussion. Will the rising level of crisis in the region allow Iran's role to be separated from the nuclear issue, especially since Iran's role in the Syrian crisis is being put on the table these days?
In summary, the aspects of cooperation and openness on these two fronts do not indicate that it will be easy to accept a grand bargain that covers both issues. All sides, and especially those making up the Arab world's political order, need to arrange their bargaining chips, and it will not be surprising if the proxy wars continue.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arab Today.