A Meeting Point Remains Elusive

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Op-Ed New York Times
As long as Iran sees itself embroiled in a zero-sum game in Syria, a half-way meeting point, however desirable, will likely remain elusive.
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Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu famously advised that during times of conflict, “build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across."

As America contemplates military force against the Assad regime in Syria, is there a potential golden bridge or dignified accommodation to offer Iran, Bashar al-Assad’s indispensable supporter?

Iran considers Syria its key geopolitical ally — a partner in an “Axis of Resistance” — and its critical geographic link to the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, Tehran’s prized regional asset.

While the arrival of more pragmatic Iranian politicians — namely President Hassan Rouhani and U.S.-educated foreign minister Javad Zarif — has understandably renewed hopes for diplomacy with Tehran, Iran’s alliance with Syria has long been maintained by the country’s Revolutionary Guards, not its diplomats.

Qassim Suleimani, the commander believed to manage Iranian operations in Syria, just yesterday declared that Tehran “will support Syria to the end.” Even more moderate figures, like former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, have implored continued support for Syria as a bulwark against Israel.

In this context, successful diplomatic engagement with Iran is hampered by the fact that outside powers — be it the U.S., Russia, or the Arab world — cannot offer Tehran assurances that a post-Assad government in Syria will remain friendly to Iranian interests.

Tehran's complicity in helping Assad kill tens of thousands of rebels has significantly diminished this prospect.

Ironically, the collapse of the Assad regime would produce a common interest for Washington and Tehran in making sure that radical Sunni Islamists, who hate Shiite Iran even more than America, do not rule Damascus.

Until then, as long as Iran sees itself embroiled in a zero-sum game in Syria, a half-way meeting point, however desirable, will likely remain elusive.

This article was originally published in the New York Times.

End of document

About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.


Comments (1)

  • HorowitzCSM
    1 Recommend
    Iran's war against the State of Israel is its Achilles heal. It is now impossible to forge a deal on Iran's nuclear program without an Iranian retreat from Syria. With the Revolutionary Guards poised on both the Golan Heights and in southern Lebanon, Israel will never agree to any form of enrichment which Iran considers its right under the NPT. War and much tougher sanctions have become near inevitable. Only a new and radical regional political architecture can prevent this scenario from developing. But the ball remains in the supreme leader's court. Only he can decide to end the theological war against Israel, the sovereign national state of the Jewish People. The days when Jews could be treated as a subject people throughout the Islamic world are over. Sura 5 of the Koran, Allah's granting of the Jewish right to the Holy Land through Moses, has indeed been fulfilled. There is no power on earth that can stop the Supreme Being when He has determined that Revelation needs to become fixed. The victory of the modern Jewish defense forces in accordance with Torah and Koranic Revelation has now become historical fact. Only infidels or fools would attempt to overturn the Judgment of the Omnipotent. Iran must decide: does it want a grand bargain with the Jewish State or not? Time is running short, as the criminal regime in Damascus becomes ever more exposed and its linkage to the Iranian nuclear program comes into full focus. So-called moderate wiggle room by the new president is indeed a "wolf in sheep's clothing" when juxtaposed against the backdrop of theological perversion and military (bordering on genocidal) threat. The axis of resistance will come down, one way or another. However the game is not over. The final decision of the UN Security Council has yet to be determined. Appropriate political solutions can still be found for both Syria and the entire region. All that is required is true goodwill among equals in this new year, 5774.
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Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/09/04/meeting-point-remains-elusive/glh2

Syria in Crisis

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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