Monday

23rd Apr 2018

EU and US at odds over Iran's role in Syria

  • Mural on wall of former US embassy in Tehran (Photo: kamshots)

EU diplomats disagree with the US and Israel on whether Iran should join a Contact Group on Syria.

UN emissary Kofi Annan last week called for the formation of a body akin to the one which steered events in the Balkans in the 1990s or the one formed last year on Libya.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

An EU source told this website it should have an "inner circle" of five or six big powers - such as the EU, Russia, Turkey and the US - and an "outer circle" of 15-or-so other countries.

Its main tasks would be to stop the violence and to prepare for the day after President Bashar Assad falls.

The source said that without a post-Assad plan, the country risks becoming a "black hole" the way Iraq did after the US removed Saddam Hussein.

EU countries are currently holding talks on whether to call for Iran's inclusion.

For its part, the US says it should be kept out because it is helping Assad - its main ally in the region - to massacre his own people.

"Iran has not demonstrated to date a readiness to contribute constructively to a peaceful political solution," America's UN ambassador, Susan Rice, said last week.

The US is in a de facto state of war with Iran since 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the US embassy in Tehran. They have no diplomatic relations.

It is also Israel's enemy number one.

"It is naive to think Iran will play a constructive role [in the group]," a former Israeli intelligence chief told press and diplomats at a recent meeting in Brussels.

Several EU diplomats interviewed by EUobserver said Iran will be vital in getting Assad's security forces to play a part in a future transitional government, however.

"They do not want to see a years-long civil war, involving hostile Islamic radicals, on their doorstep," one contact said.

"It's hard to imagine [US secretary of state Hilary] Clinton sitting down with Iran to talk about the future of Syria. But in the wider picture, is a political solution in Syria possible without Iran?" another EU source noted.

'Cloaked in irrationality'

For her part, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has had a taste of Iranian diplomacy in her role as chief negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks.

Commenting on how hard it was to agree a meaningful agenda for the nuclear meeting in Moscow on Monday (18 June), a member of her team said: "Its behaviour is sometimes very rational, but cloaked in irrationality."

Iran likes to keep the EU in the dark.

An EU diplomat based in Tehran said Iranian officials refuse to meet him: "EU diplomats in Iran basically talk to each other."

But the two sides have functional day-to-day relations.

The French, German and Swedish embassies in Tehran cultivate EU business interests. An EU diplomat in Afghanistan - a massive source of heroin - said: "Iran is doing more than Europe to stop drugs getting into Europe."

'What are you bringing?'

The price of making friends could be big: assurances that the West will not pursue regime change in Iran; legitimisation of its role as a regional power; no oil sanctions.

One senior official in Ashton's service predicted the US will get its way. "I don't think it will be possible to include them in the Contact Group," he said.

But for his part, the Tehran-based EU diplomat said the EU's open door with Iran is an important asset.

"It concerns the EU's post-Lisbon role in the world," he noted, referring to the Lisbon Treaty, which created Ashton's diplomatic corps in order to give the Union more collective influence.

"When you sit around the top table with the UN Security Council countries, the question is what are you bringing? The EU can bring its partnerships, the fact that it can talk to everybody," he said.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

News in Brief

  1. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  2. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  3. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  4. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  5. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  6. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  7. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  8. MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  2. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  4. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  5. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  6. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  7. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  8. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  9. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  12. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice

Latest News

  1. Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP
  2. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  3. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  4. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  5. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  6. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  7. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  8. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  4. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  5. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  6. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  7. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  8. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  9. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  11. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  12. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year