The US should not send mixed messages to Tehran over its participation in the upcoming Geneva II talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, as it could potentially damage a P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, political analyst Kaveh Afrasiabi told RT.
RT: How important do you think Iran's participation in the upcoming conference is?
Kaveh Afrasiabi: Well I think it is very important since Iran is a strategic state in a strategic alliance with Syria dating decades and is highly involved directly and indirectly in the Syrian theatre. Given the complex and multi-faceted nature of the Syrian conflict that involves the regional states and proxy wars and so forth, it is very important to get Iran involved, so there would be mediation not only between the Syrian government and the opposition, but also between competing regional states, principally Iran and Saudi Arabia.
RT: At first we heard Kerry say that he is inviting Iran to the talks but now the State department is making excuses saying that Iran won't have time to prepare for the conference. Let's take a listen.
Marie Harf: [John Kerry] was simply stating that there are ways Iran could show the world that they want to see a positive outcome, and if they did so, obviously that would mean that if they wanted to play a role in Geneva 2 on the sidelines, we would look more favorably on that. But certainly no one was indicating an openness to inviting them. These aren’t things that if they do, they would definitely be invited. They’re just things that they could do to show that they want to affect a positive outcome. But again, we have no indication they’re going to, and Geneva 2 is in how many days? So I think the likelihood of that is probably very small.
RT: So what is the US's actual stance on Iran's role in the Geneva 2 Conference?
KA: Well, it beats the hell out of me because we see contradictory signals and obviously the US is undecided on this issue. That is very unfortunate because it sends the wrong signal to Iran - even have adverse consequences with respect to confidence building on the nuclear issue.
Iran has stated its preparedness to participate and make constructive contributions for a political settlement in Syria and has already proven its intention by supporting the Syrian chemical weapons disarmament, as well as holding Syrian dialogue conferences with participation by various representatives of religious and ethnic spectrums in Syria.
So I think that the US should stop this self-contradiction, send an invitation through UN to Iran so that all the parties that have a stake in this conflict could participate and bring an end to this tragic, catastrophic conflict.
RT: The US is waiting for Iran to comply with the Geneva 1 communique, which means agreeing to a transitional government in Syria. So how likely is it that Iran will comply?
KA: Well, first of all, the US has its own peculiar interpretation of Geneva 1 that does not mention President Assad stepping down, yet the US is making that a priority, at least some officials in the US government do.
And if you look at the pronouncements from Tehran, from foreign minister Zarif, who is touring the region nowadays, you’ll see that he is putting the emphasis on electoral politics, on a free participatory election in Syria and hinting that Iran will weigh in on Syria with respect to the de-escalation of conflict and there are issues with respect to humanitarian access, prisoner swap and localized ceasefire, and on all these issues Iran can be the contributing factor.
And I think that there are ways of pronouncing or stating support for various aspects of the Geneva 1 final communique that Iran has not denounced or renounced or stated opposition to it, but is just a very peculiar, I think, over interpretation of it by some Western powers, above all the US.