By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
One of the basic rules of thumb when it comes to solving a problem is that anyone who is involved in or with the problem, and especially anyone who can disrupt the outcome of a resolution, needs to be at the table in order to bring a matter to closure. It does not matter, in other words, whether you like someone or not. If a person or group is involved in or with a problem to any significant degree, they need to be involved in its resolution.
For a moment it seemed as if the United Nations and the United States understood that basic notion. In an attempt to bring to an end the Syrian civil war, Iran – the chief ally of the Assad regime in Syria – was invited to participate in the peace talks. Suddenly the U.S. responded with revulsion, suggesting that they would back away from the talks if Iran was sitting there. Elements of the Syrian opposition did likewise. The Iranians were dis-invited.
Iran is a country that has felt corned for decades. Syria has been a key ally in the region, for better or for worse. If Iran believes that they are being cut off from their ally (Syria), it is more than likely that they will do what they can to undermine the outcome of the talks.
Instead of the U.S. reacting with fury at the inclusion of Iran, the Obama administration should have reacted with glee that a major regional power with whom it has had a contentious relationship may be able to be drawn into discussions that would not only end the Syrian civil war but could improve regional relations. Instead we received bluster from this administration and their allies.
The U.S.A. is not in a position to handle an expansion of the Syrian civil war into a full regional conflict. Lebanon, Syria’s neighbor, is already unstable and on the verge of being drawn into the fray. The Arab/Persian Gulf states have been actively arming the Syrian opposition, including the arming of jihadists, in part due to their hatred of the Iranian regime. Added to this is the threat that Israel may either attack or provoke the U.S. to attack Iran as part of the on-going dispute around Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
For these reasons, Iran should be at the table. While they are clearly not an honest broker, neither, for that matter, is the U.S. They both have a dog in this race, as the saying goes. Thus, engaging all the parties and ensuring that all who can disrupt the final outcome have a real stake in a constructive outcome should be the logical path forward. Perhaps that will occur if the Obama administration hears your voice and your lack of interest in a regional conflagration.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is an internationally known racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.