An interview with Mohammad Ali Sobhani, Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon and an expert on Middle Eastern affairs
Lakhdar Brahimi believes that Iran’s 4-point plan to resolve the Syrian crisis is like a beacon of light in darkness and is worth being discussed. These statements were made after his resignation while, during his tenure as the UN envoy to Syria, he had not taken any practical steps in studying the Iranian plan for Syria. Is there a contradiction in his behavior and words?
The statements made by Lakhdar Brahimi about Iran’s plan worth being discussed and also being a shot in the dark are contradictory by themselves. These statements bear the message that Iran cannot be ignored in the resolution of the problem in Syria. Of course, he is right in this regard. The statement that Iran’s plan is a shot in the dark is the viewpoint of a person who has great experience in this matter and naturally it is not unreal. The situation in Syria has become so complicated that political schemes must have a minimum of agreement over the method of political activities inside the country before reaching regional and international consensus. Such a thing has not happened yet. The fact is that political plans do not generally succeed. For example, if Mr. Brahimi had succeeded with the Geneva-2 plan, we could claim that political plans are implementable. I believe that the resolution of the Syrian crisis is something else. Before presenting any political plan, these plans must be based on internal agreement reached between the official groups involved, the accepted opposition and the government. This understanding could be based on the political process and dialogue.
The other issue is that if the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and other countries like Turkey and Qatar and other involved countries are not improved, finding a resolution for the Syrian crisis would be difficult or even impossible. At the same time, the US and Russia, which are currently involved in the Ukrainian crisis, have confronted each other in the Syrian issue as well. In Ukraine, deep differences have been created between the two countries and the situation in Syria has become more complicated with the impact of the conditions in Ukraine. Therefore, different parties such as Iran have this right and Mr. Brahimi must accept that under the most difficult conditions efforts to reach a political solution must not be eliminated. Any political plan and effort should be appreciated and respected. On the other hand, under conditions when minimum understanding has not been reached, presenting political plans would fail.
In his statements, Mr. Brahimi has continued that Iran’s purpose behind this plan has probably been the exit of Hezbollah and Iraqi forces and that it is on this basis that we could discuss this proposal. How has Mr. Brahimi reached this interpretation?
Although I could not express an opinion until hearing the official explanations, I believe that the presence of countries in Syria must only be aimed at helping to reach national reconciliation. I have never supported the presence of foreign forces in Syria. Of course, this would not mean that this absence would only be for one side, but for all parties and all of those who somehow help in the presence of the armed forces in various forms. I believe that this is not a proper solution. I believe that a network of Islamic forces must be established to provide security in Syria. Syria must not become the scene for clashes. These clashes may not be dangerous at first but all of the involved players will realize that the lack of security would lead to the empowerment of the terrorist groups, meaning a safe haven for the training the terrorists.
Lakhdar Brahimi has also talked about Russia’s analysis of the situation in Syria. Russia has claimed that Syria is not like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia where the governments were overthrown during a certain period of time through military forces. He has said that nobody accepted this fact at the time while this issue should have been assessed. Why does Mr. Brahimi talk about issues now which were previously proposed by Iran and Russia with regard to Syria while no efforts were made at that time to present these ideas?
We must not expect a political official to repeat the same statements which he had made a few years ago. The interpretations of the time were made on the basis of the realities of the time and the developments of the Middle East and North Africa believing that the Syrian government would soon be overthrown. Thus, Mr. Brahimi should not be blamed today for not insisting on his previous analysis. The point which must not be forgotten is that the demands of the people of the region were generally similar to each other. This means that the people of Libya had the same demands as those of the people of Syria. Now, these developments have either reached a deadlock or have become so complicated that this problem has been created in Syria and Bahrain today. The problem has continued and become complicated in Bahrain with Saudi Arabia’s interference. In Syria, the situation became more complicated due to the regional differences and regional and international interferences, particularly between Russia and the US. It was predictable that the reactions to people’s demands could be different in different countries based on the conditions and behavior of governments with regard to the opposition. Today everybody knows that the situation in Syria is different from other countries and the government of Syria has not easily left the scene. Today we are witnessing civil, ethnic, regional and international wars.