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Iran's Participation Crucial to Resolving Syrian Crisis

, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014

Washington’s reluctance to include Tehran unconditionally in talks to end the war in Syria was on full view this week. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to Iran to take part in preliminary peace talks at Montreux, Switzerland—quickly accepted—led to a diplomatic crisis after the U.S. insisted Iran had to embrace the agreement reached in June 2012 by the U.N.-backed Action Group for Syria, which among other things called for the formation of a transitional governing body. Syria’s main external opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also threatened not to show up to the talks if the Iranians were present. So within 24 hours the U.N. chief rescinded his offer, and the talks got underway yesterday without a delegation from Iran.

Washington fears that allowing Tehran into the official talks could enhance the regional and international standing of Iran, a belligerent nation in Syria’s conflict. The U.S. also wishes to avoid further alienating its allies in the Persian Gulf and Israel who are suspicious of Iran. But much has changed in the 19 months since the initial Syria accord was negotiated without Iran’s participation. ...

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