Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Pakistan in late March. Arrangements were made beforehand to establish further economic relations and expand diplomatic ties, while knowing Pakistan is a member of the Islamic countries’ coalition spearheaded by Saudi Arabia. This alliance is specifically formed to prevent Iran’s terrorist measures in the region.
In this visit Rouhani sought to differentiate his government’s stance on Syria in comparison to the position promoted by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on exporting terrorism. To this end at a press conference he said, “Negotiations are the basics of reaching a solution and transitional period to specify the future of Syria.” These remarks are interesting, considering the fact that Iran has to this day stood behind the Syrian dictator to this very day. Words such as “transitional period,” as emphasized by the Syrian opposition, regional states and Western countries, mean Bashar Assad must be set aside.
As his remarks continued, Rouhani overtly called for dialogue with Saudi Arabia and resolving issues between the two countries through negotiations.
“… the JCPOA can be an example in this regard, and we can use this solution to resolve other dilemmas in the region.” Whereas Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and other officials in this country have time and again announced Riyadh will only negotiation with Tehran if this regime evacuates Syria, and brings an end to all its meddling across the region.
Therefore, Rouhani has sent a message that his regime is ready to give major concessions regarding its regional policy, naming this as “JCPOA2”.
The remarks made by Rouhani should have logically raised much anger amongst the Khamenei faction. However, it is utterly surprising that in this regard we are witnessing no intense backlash against Rouhani. This becomes more meaningful when we recall how Khamenei in his lengthy March 20th speech, without referring to Syria, moaned of further “JCPOA” agreements regarding his regime’s policies in the region. Without distinctly disavowing the subject he said, “We reached an agreement on the nuclear issue. We named it the JCPOA. Another such agreement regarding the region, the country’s constitution, JCPOA 2, 3, 4 and …”
The question is was Rouhani tacitly accepting the “transitional period” a mere individual move, or does it rely on deeper realities and even discussions amongst the regime’s senior brass?
Ali Khorram, a senior member of the Rafsanjani camp, who considered Russia pulling out of Syria as “deception” against the regime, admitted this development led to “Iran’s role in the region to wane” and currently “Iran’s strategy has remained brought to an end.” He then more explicitly said, “At the negotiating table Turkey and Saudi Arabia can even impose Bashar Assad giving up his power, and it can be said that they are currently the winners in Syria.”
This admission resembles the beginning of the end of Khamenei’s “strategic depth” strategy. Prior to this Khamenei had described the Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria as “defenders of sacred sites” and added, “If they hadn’t fought… we would have been forced to fight here in Kermanshah and Hamedan, and all other provinces.”
Khamenei clearly realizes that day is near. Therefore, in his speech on March 20th he forecasted the future of his regime as such, “If we retreat, retreat will lead to such ends… this is what I have said many times. This is a change in the Islamic republic’s morality and ethics.”