Pierre du Bois Foundation

Détente, not Rapprochement (Part 1): The Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy in the Syrian Civil War

IranPolitik co-founder Farzan Sabet has published the first of a two part series for the Geneva-based Pierre du Bois Foundation’s Current Affairs in Perspective series:

“Iran, a central actor in both of these dramas, has been engaged in intense diplomacy in Geneva, Switzerland, with the E3+3 (Great Britain, France, and Germany, plus the United States, China, and Russia), resulting in the historic Joint Plan of Action (JPA) in November 2013. This interim-agreement addresses some of the fundamental issues of the Iranian nuclear crisis, albeit temporarily, and gives six months to one year of breathing space to allow for the negotiation of a more permanent agreement. It has been a tentative and fragile victory that bodes well for the resolution of the nuclear crisis and the broken U.S.-Iran relationship. This tentative success contrasts starkly with the experience of the Geneva II Conference on Syria. The Geneva II talks began on a dark note in January 2014 when Iran was unceremoniously disinvited from attending, and ultimately collapsed in February when it became obvious that the chasm between the regime and opposition is too wide to bridge in the near future. Unlike the E3+3-Iran talks, which demonstrated the ability of decades-long enemies to sit at the negotiation table and work toward resolving their differences, Geneva II reflected domestic Syrian and regional animosities and the inability to put aside differences. This contrast between the two Geneva negotiations begs the question: Which is more reflective of the MENA region’s future and what is Iran’s place in both? There is hope that the tentative success of the E3+3-Iran talks will translate into greater cooperation by Iran with the West, especially the United States, and their respective regional allies in ending the Syrian civil war. However, the divergence between the Syria and nuclear negotiations in Geneva reveals that while the foreseeable future may hold a tentative détente between Iran and the West, we should not necessarily expect a far-reaching rapprochement any time soon.”

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