Monday, February 11, 2013

US-Iran' Almaty meeting: 'Weigh station' on Iran & 'rejection of false promises' on Syria

"... Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seemed to nix the idea of a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran when he said on February 7, in response to Biden, that “You take up arms against the nation of Iran and say: 'negotiate or we fire.' But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these actions." The United States did not take Khamenei’s response as the final word. Secretary of State Kerry followed Khamenei’s  announcement with what Laura Rozen described as a ‘heartfelt plea’ when Kerry said on February 8: “And so my plea to the Iranians … is a clear statement … We are prepared to let diplomacy be the victor in this confrontation over their nuclear program.”
Al-Monitor’s Iran Pulse had also reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had a "positive reaction" to Kerry’s appointment.
Khamenei’s response, while disappointing, should not be considered the final word.  The test of diplomacy is diplomacy itself, and the Almaty meeting is a good step, although the P5+1 forum is likely nothing more than a weigh station, rather than the setting itself, for any diplomatic breakthrough. The nuclear negotiations cannot be detached from the wider regional context, including and especially Syria, and sooner rather than later Syria must also be the subject of US-Iran talks....
“Washington remains as committed as ever to a democratic transition that results in Assad's departure, but it has now opened the door in support of negotiations with all parties to achieve it ... In the past, the suggestion that Assad was prepared to lose an election in 2014 could not be made in polite company. No longer. This change does not insure success, but at the very least it helps to establish a formidable and broad-based diplomatic counterweight to the killing.”
Aronson’s article was posted just two days before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Feb. 8, where Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that President Obama had nixed a proposal to arm Syrian rebels last summer.
The Wall Street Journal reported: “The White House stalled the proposal because of lingering questions about which rebels could be trusted with the arms, whether the transfers would make a difference in the campaign to remove Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and whether the weapons would add to the suffering, the U.S. officials said. A U.S. official cited the findings of a CIA team of analysts, which cast doubt on the impact of arming the rebels on the conflict.”...
The Obama administration for now seems to have rejected the false promise of a military victory by the rebels over the Syrian government and has instead given priority to an approach to the Syrian crisis that would end the killing sooner rather than later and in the context of a negotiated political solution. ... the emphasis for now should be to support the courageous effort of Moaz al-Khatib, head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, to consider direct engagement with Damascus, an initiative which has the support of the United States, Russia and Iran,..."

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