Syria is the crucible of the dynamics and disputes crossing the Middle East today. The civil war has not been confined only to local actors. It has deeply involved various regional stakeholders, pursuing different agendas within a broader conflict that has increasingly assumed a sectarian dimension.
After almost 3 years of fierce battling, the course of the war epitomizes the lack of success of the actors concerned, which were not able to achieve their objectives neither in Syria nor in the broader region. An exception is represented by al-Qaeda, whose militants are now dominating the ranks of the opposition to Bashar al-Assad and have gained ground in Egypt (Sinai) and Libya during the “Arab Spring”.
The recent crisis over the use of chemical weapons was about to engender a further escalation, looming a military intervention led by the United States. The agreement at the UN Security Council on the disposal of the Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile helped defuse the crisis and seems to have opened new prospects for a political settlement in Syria and on a regional scale.
In this wake, the signs of détente from the US and Iran presidents, Obama and Rouhani, might constitute the start of a reconciliation process encompassing the Iranian nuclear program and other significant lingering questions: from Syria and Afghanistan to Iraq and Lebanon, from the peace process between Israel and Palestine to the fight against terrorism.
This process relating to security and foreign policy issues shall also be complemented with an open and constructive dialogue in the cultural domain, in order for the US-Iran rapprochement to be strategic in nature and enduring in the long term, to the benefit of peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond.