As Turkey, NATO, and the United Nations all struggle with an appropriate response to Syria's continued flouting of international rules, Iran is now offering its services as a peacemaker.
Turkey's president lashed out at Syria today, saying Bashar al-Assad's government "has no more legitimacy" following last week's incident when a Turkish military plane was shot down by Syrian forces. Turkey invoked a rarely used provision of the NATO treaty to call a meeting of member states to discuss a response. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the military will alter its rules of engagement to consider any Syrian force near its border to be a threat, while his deputy prime minister insisted the hostile act "would not go unpunished." Even after calling the act unacceptable, however, other NATO countries have shown no interest in striking back.
Enter the Iranians, who announced through their foreign ministry that "We will use our good relationship with the two countries to resolve the issue." The United Nations is also turning to Iran, with envoy Kofi Annan proposing that Tehran's diplomats be invited to high level meetings on the crisis. A long-time ally of Assad, they maybe the only country that put the right amount of non-lethal pressure on his regime.
The United States has objected to Iranian involvement in the talks, but given that they've made no progress with Russia and China on a serious Security Council measure, they may not have any other choice but to let them get involved. The Iranians don't want to see Assad thrown from power, but they also recognize that if they don't help to stop the fighting soon they won't get a say in the matter. If the conflict Turkey escalates, it could provoke a regional war that ends with Assad out of power, its other allies (Hamas and Hezbollah) weakened, and Iran more isolated in the Middle East than ever before. They may not have the same goals as the U.S., but it is in both of their interests to see the fighting stop. Playing the hero would also win the Iranians a lot of points in their own diplomatic fights over U.S. sanctions,
Of course, it's not still clear if Iran can even control Assad or convince him to put a stop to the violence. But since no one else has had any luck, letting them have their shot may be the last, best option.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.