This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
That was quick. One day the United Nations announces Iran will attend the Syrian peace talks, then, boom, the next day they’re not.
Secretary of State Kerry stood his ground. No Iran. Without guaranteed Assad regime change.
But the question remains: Is Kerry pursuing regime change in Syria or is he posturing for the world community?
The UN is an embarrassment to the international community. It is part of a global and surprisingly colonial peace industry that provides jobs for diplomats who want to live outside their country, military personnel who pose as peacekeepers and justice and peace folks looking for well-paid employment.
So the UN loses once again and Kerry wins – what?
It seems the United States believes in virtual nation-states that though vastly different – without American values and so forth – reside in “our” neighborhood – which means they must respond to US military and diplomatic pressure. They answer to and are there to be manipulated by us.
But if Kerry and the Obama administration may have noticed, Syria – Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, too – live somewhere else. Long range, these countries are beyond our mandate. They sink or swim in their own region. Once America leaves the scene, they’re back, often in worse shape, to where they were. Does anyone believe that Iran isn’t an important actor in Syria’s future?
Since Kerry is farming out the Palestinian question to the Saudis – for housing and finances for resettlement to deal with the Palestinian right of (no) return – and Egypt – to destroy Hamas and deliver a safe border for Israel – why not enlist Iran in the further dismemberment of Palestine?
Iran could be assigned the task of taking down Hezbollah in Lebanon. Doing so would demonstrate that Iran is traveling the American-defined straight and narrow.
We are left with the diplomatic question of questions: Why isn’t Kerry applying his Israel-first strategy to Iran as he is elsewhere?
Both the Guardian and the New York Times report that the Geneva conference is more a show and tell event than a real negotiating session. Though Russia is angry, at least so far it remains on board. No doubt a communique will emerge from the event. Has it already been crafted?
Obviously, Syria’s Assad isn’t going anywhere for the time being. Since militarily he seems to have the upper hand, why flee now? Besides, for some players in the region he is the one to restore order in Syria. In spite of the political posturing, the United States – along with Israel – has already accepted Assad for the foreseeable future.
Playing the dump Assad card – without doing anything about it – is playing with Syrian lives on a massive scale. But that’s been going on since the Syrian conflict began. It’s likely to stretch out for years to come.
The dark cloud hanging over the Geneva conference is the suffering of the Syrian people and whether America’s (real) position on the Syrian regime is more like its (real) position on the Egyptian regime. Criticize the dictatorship we enable.
Kerry should get off his anti-Iran soapbox and get on with helping to end the suffering of the Syrian people. Anything less is a study in cynicism which suffering people around the world, especially in the Middle East, know all too well.