Tehran’s offensive for establishing itself as the leading Middle East power bar none is in full flight. On his arrival in Moscow Thursday, Jan. 17, Foreign Minister Javad Zerif handed Vladimir Putin an invitation to visit Tehran from President Hassan Rouhani. The Russian president replied: “I hope to visit you in Tehran very soon.” Iran also sent out invitations to Gulf rulers to tour its nuclear reactor at Bushehr, combined with a round table discussion on regional nuclear cooperation.
This visit would be tantamount to the Arab oil emirs’ recognition of the legitimacy of Iran’s nuclear program. It is likely to come off because the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman are already in favor of rapprochement with Tehran.
A development more directly affecting Israel’s interests is the King of Morocco’s offer to Iran of full membership in the Al Quds (Jerusalem) Committee of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (IOC), with the approval of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Friday and Saturday (Jan. 17-18), in Marrakesh, the king chaired the Al Quds Committee’s 20th session, its first in ten years, announcing an effort to contribute to John Kerry’s efforts to revive the Middle East peace process. The gathering is attended by the foreign ministers of the committee member states, UN Security Council member states, the UN, EU and the Arab League, as well as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
debkafile reports that Kerry has been keeping King Mohammad VI in Rabat au fait of the state of play in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, hoping to win the organization’s cooperation on the tough Jerusalem issue. Any US-backed Israeli-Palestinian accords involving Jerusalem, if achieved, would be referred to the Al Quds Committee.
Therefore, by inviting Iran to join, Kerry and the Moroccan king have inserted Tehran into one of the most sensitive decision-making hubs affecting the Middle East peace process.
These pivotal developments flow directly from the events disclosed by debkafile Thursday, Jan. 16:
Thursday, Jan. 16, Iran’s Javad Zarif and Syria’s Walid Moallem flew together to Moscow aboard the same flight and went straight into a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zarif caught the flight in Damascus after a consultation with Syrian President Bashar Assad and a government-building exercise in Beirut. debkafile’s Middle East sources and intelligence sources report that this spurt of diplomatic motion came after Assad gave the nod to the plan Tehran had prepared to put on the table of the Geneva 2 conference, which opens in Switzerland on Jan. 20 for a political solution of the Syrian conflict. The two foreign ministers came to Moscow to collect Putin’s signature on the Iranian plan.
debkafile has gained access to its four high points:
1. Since the Assad regime and the rebel movement have no hope of coming to terms at this point in the three-year war they have been fighting, a political solution must be sought in stages.
2. The first stage would be agreement on a truce in the fighting. debkafile notes that a ceasefire has existed de facto in many parts of Syria for the last two months.
3. Humanitarian corridors respected by both sides will be opened up for essential American, Russian and European aid in food, medicines and equipment for withstanding the cold winter, to reach the rebel-held zones of Syria, most of which are under army siege.
4. Al Qaeda militias are counted out of any agreements. Therefore, an initiative must be launched for Syrian and rebel forces to collaborate in fighting al Qaeda elements in the areas under their control.
Zarif also planned to show Putin the plan he has drawn up for bringing political stability to Lebanon with Hizballah’s cooperation. It centers on forming a national unity government of 24 ministers – eight for Hizballah and its allies and eight for the opposition bloc, each grouping holding the right to veto ministerial appointments.
The Iranian foreign minister has clearly lost no time in filling the Middle East role of leading Middle East power broker and strongman, just allocated Tehran by Moscow and Washington.
According to prearranged procedure. Iranian officials first hammer out an accord with local rulers, such as Assad, Nasrallah and Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. They then present it to the Russian leader for endorsement, after which Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov refers the document to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Iranian foreign minister set the new arrangement in motion for the first time in Lebanon. Iran’s next exhibition of muscle-flexing as senior Middle East power will be staged on Jan. 20 at Geneva 2.