August is a crucial month in Iran's
diplomatic calendar for 2012. If it plays its
cards right, Tehran could see big dividends for
its counter-sanction and regional strategies.
The venue for Tehran's efforts will be
summits in Iran and Saudi Arabia - the
Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Mecca
on August 14 and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
Summit in Tehran on August 29-30 - which will
bring dozens of world leaders to the Persian Gulf
The first of the meetings, the
OIC, presents an opportunity for improved
Iran-Saudi relations and - perhaps - even a
collaborative effort between Tehran and Riyadh to
tackle the political crisis in Syria.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who
personal invitation for
the OIC from the Saudi King, has confirmed he will
attend and take part in its deliberations on
Syria.  This is tantamount to an olive branch
towards Riyadh, which is constantly criticized in
the Iranian media for fueling the bloodshed in
Syria by funneling arms and finance to the rebels.
It is likely that by the time the OIC gets
underway, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's
forces will have succeeded in securing Aleppo -
latest reports suggest rebels fighting there are
already on the backfoot. This will be a rude
awakening to the Saudis, Turkey, and of course the
US, which have openly backed "regime-change"
through supplying arms to the rebellion.
Although this author noted the vast
differences between the West's "victory" in Libya
and the Syrian crisis several months ago, these
are only now coming into focus for the West,
making it less and less likely that there will be
a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
campaign to topple the regime in Damascus. (See Does
Gaddafi's fate await Assad?, Asia Times
Online, August 25, 2011.)
and even China - which has put aside its
traditional conservatism by dispatching a warship
to the area - are solidly behind Assad's regime,
while Assad has deftly played the Kurdish and
Christian cards against Turkey and the "Free
Syrian Army". Future historians will likely say
that after decades of Western interventionism, the
buck stopped in Syria.
This will represent
a major setback for Turkey, which has harmed its
own image by acting as a Trojan horse for the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Israel.
Ankara will now likely seek a more balanced
foreign policy, rather than pander to American
The Palestinians, currently
displaying the same lack of foresight that saw
them back Saddam Hussein in his invasions of Iran
and then Kuwait during the 1980s and 1990s, are
another potential loser. Should Damascus regain
control of the whole country and put an end to the
civil war, we may then witness a less hospitable
attitude toward the Palestinians.
of Israel's opposition, Palestinian Authority and
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman
Mahmoud Abbas has decided to participate in the
Tehran NAM summit, which will offer an historic
opportunity for Iran and the PLO to mend ties.
Tehran's relations with Hamas have been strained
since it closed its headquarters in Damascus in
support of the Saudi-backed rebels, a grave
The question of
Egypt An important question regarding both
summits centers on Egypt and whether President
Mohammed Morsi will accept Iran's invitation,
which was submitted by Iran's Vice-President Hamid
Baghei on Wednesday.
Israel has been
trying to sabotage a thaw in Iran-Egypt relations,
for instance by accusing Iran of a direct hand in
the Sinai attack on Egyptian border guards last
Sunday. However, Egyptian analysts are
increasingly blaming this attack on Israel,
calling it a "false-flag" operation aimed at
closing the Egyptian border with Gaza - and this
is exactly what Morsi has done, suggesting he's
fallen into an Israeli trap.
participation at the Tehran summit is extremely
important, firstly because it will give a clear
indication of how far the "new Egypt" has
progressed towards developing a regional identity
not shaped by Western powers. It will also reveal
how far Cairo has moved forwards in its
rapprochement with Iran.
Morsi will likely
coordinate his Iran policy with Saudi Arabia,
which is keen on A new dialogue with Iran on a
range of regional security issues, particularly in
light of setbacks to its "regime change" strategy
vis-a-vis Assad's regime. So far, the Saudis have
not indicated who they will send to the NAM
summit, though Tehran has invited Saudi King
Abdullah. This is a decision Riyadh will likely
make after the OIC summit, depending on how
diplomatic rapprochement progresses with Tehran.
According to a Tehran University political
science professor who spoke to the author on the
condition of anonymity, Iran's goal is to find a
"pan-regional solution for Syria, with the
cooperation of all the regional stakeholders".
A major obstacle to this solution is the
opposition of the US and Israel, which are
grappling with the challenges of a coercive Iran
policy that has not yielded any results despite
"crippling sanctions". Tel Aviv is now lamenting
that "Iran's centrifuges are spinning faster", and
there is virtually no sign that Iran will succumb
to outside pressures and suspend its uranium
Tehran editorials are
awash with descriptions of the upcoming NAM summit
as "making a caricature of sanctions", while
expecting an inevitable diplomatic boost for Iran
through hosting an international summit at a time
when US and Israel are making every effort
possible to isolate the country in the
"NAM has always
supported Iran's nuclear rights and will do so
again at the Tehran summit, and obviously this
goes against the grain of the Western [coercive]
approach toward Iran," said the Tehran professor.
At the same time, the academic cautioned
against "potential circuit-breakers" that the US
and or Israel may resort to between now and the
end of August, prior to the NAM conference, in
order to overshadow the summit and thus deprive
Iran of the opportunity to harvest the results.
The spoiler may come in the form of
tensions in Persian Gulf, or new acts of terrorism
attributed to Iran. However, Iran is fully
cognizant of such "contingencies" and is putting
extra effort to maintain a calm environment for
the sake of the NAM summit.