UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had the temerity Monday to invite Iran to participate in the "Geneva II" conference on the ongoing crisis in Syria. Though one might believe Iran has a legitimate interest in a conflict right in its neighborhood, the US refused to allow Iran to participate unless its leadership agreed to the pre-condition that Assad must be driven from power. For the US, the result of the conference must be decided before the conference commences. It is Queen of Hearts diplomacy: sentence first, verdict afterward!
Mexico was invited to participate, but Iran, whose border with Syria is some 100 miles away, was forbidden by the US from attending.
So Monday's unexpected invitation from Ban Ki Moon to Iran sent shockwaves through Foggy Bottom.
Secretary of State Kerry had a complete breakdown. He had just secured the participation of one US-favored Syrian oppositionist group -- made up of exiles who have no political presence in Syria and who command none of the armed opposition groups on the ground. The UN invite to Iran broadsided a US administration desperate to hold on to the myth that there is a legitimate force waiting in the wings to lead Syria to a glorious democratic future (unlike, say, in previous US-sponsored "liberations" in places like Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan).
The opposition Syrian Opposition Coalition gave a deadline of 2:00 PM Monday for the invitation to be rescinded or they would pull out of the conference, thereby putting truth to the lie that the US actually has any control over the groups to which it has funneled untold millions of dollars. As the Economist points out, in the larger scheme of things it matters not whether the group attends -- the Syrian Opposition Coalition is "increasingly irrelevant." They control none of the forces on the ground in Syria and therefore have no ability to implement an agreement even if one were reached.
In a move that should earn Ban Ki Moon an eternal place in the diplomacy hall of shame, under frantic pressure from Kerry and the US administration he quickly rescinded the invitation to the Iranians. Any doubt over who controls the UN should be confirmed by the Secretary General's spineless obsequiousness.
Thus far the US has "won" and will not have to face an Iranian at the conference. But the Geneva II conference becomes a farce. An opposition group backed by the US and the "Friends of Syria" with no presence in Syria, no support in Syria, and no control over any fighting force among the more than 1,000 rebel militias will scream to representatives of the government of Syria that Assad must go and they should be installed into power. The representatives of the Syrian government, whose military is steadily defeating the various US/Saudi/Turk/Israel-supported jihadist groups will reject the proposal out of hand.
Russia, which aside from pointing out that banning Iran is an "unforgivable mistake" on the part of the US, has been largely silent today. The last time the US administration had backed itself into a corner with its diplomatic blundering on Syria the Russians provided a face-saving way out of the crisis -- the voluntary relinquishing of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. The Syrian government's reward for giving up these "WMDs" was similar to that of Gaddafi when he did the same: a renewed US regime change effort.
Do the Russians have another plan up their sleeve?