For the last three years, I’ve said, in private discussions, that the Syrian conflict won’t be solved until the US and Iran come to some sort of agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. It looks like one is just over the horizon–but also far enough away that it still may not happen.
There are, however, bogey’s on both sides. Conservatives in Iran are upset at what they see as concessions and Republicans–and Democrats for that matter–in Congress are attempting to impose a new round sanctions. Both groups could, through their meddling and activism, sabotage the process.
What ever their respective end games may be, they’re dancing dangerously close to leading both countries into a military confrontation. This will only further destabilize the region and should be avoided.
Far worse, however, is the likelihood that continued stalemate between Iran and the US will lead to a deepening of the conflict in Syria. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have called for a solution to what can only be described as a civil war cum transnational conflict being waged by regional powers and non-state violent actors (NVSAs). But without a settlement to the nuclear negotiations, the Syrian Civil War is likely to continue to spiral out of control. It is not known, however, if Congressional leaders realize the connection–something tells me they don’t.
Having said that, this past October, in a meeting with an aide from Senator Rand Paul’s office, I was told that the junior Senator from Kentucky believes that the road to a solution in Syria runs through Tehran. That seemed to be an astute assessment of the situation, until Sen. Paul followed up that proclamation with piece in Foreign Policy that sounded a bit more hawkish regarding Iran.
Regardless, the crises–both in Syria and the negotiations between US and Iran–aren’t going away anytime soon. The question is can they be managed so as to avoid an out of control region wide war? Or have we already reached that point? Outside of that, will conservatives and hardliners on both sides (Iran and the US) allow negotiators the bandwidth to get a deal signed? Once that takes place, can the regional powers backing the various groups taking part in the Syrian Civil War come together and end the hostilities?