Iran shifts on Syria

WASHINGTON — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at meetings in Oslo, Norway, this week, signaled that he has more authority on the Syria file than he has had until now, and that Iran may be prepared to show more flexibility to advance a political solution, sources who met with him there told Al-Monitor.

The apparent shift in Iran’s Syria policymaking comes as the Obama administration is facing internal criticism of its Syria policy, in the form of a dissent cable signed by some 50 State Department officers urging the United States to conduct airstrikes against the Assad regime in order to pressure it to make serious concessions at stalled political transition talks with the opposition in Geneva. The memo, first reported by The New York Times June 16, calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed US-led diplomatic process.”

The internal pressure in both Tehran and Washington to shift course to accelerate a political settlement in Syria comes as Zarif met with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum June 15, to discuss implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the situation in Syria.

“What [Zarif] seemed to be signaling was that he has more authority on the Syria file than he has had until now,” a US nongovernmental source who met with Zarif on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor. “He seemed to suggest that Iran is prepared to show more flexibility on how fast that question [of Assad] is dealt with and how.”

“The Syrian crisis can be only resolved politically, and a solution to the Syrian crisis will not be achieved through military means,” Zarif said in a joint press conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende on June 13, Iran’s Press TV reported.

“I have said all along that there will be no solution if we focus on any individual, because it is a zero-sum question that will inevitably lead to stalemate and deadlock,” Zarif told Al-Monitor by email June 16, when asked about what suggestions for advancing a Syrian political resolution he proposed.

Full article: Iran shifts on Syria (Al-Monitor)

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