THE WORLDPOST
09/13/2013 04:06 pm ET

Is The Syria Crisis Changing U.S.-Iran Relations?

The United States and Iran have taken opposite sides in the Syrian conflict. Yet many wonder whether the crisis in the Arab nation could actually bring Washington and Tehran closer together.

Iran is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has supported the regime since the start of the conflict in March 2011. U.S. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has made it clear Assad must leave office and is mulling a military strike against the government and its allies in the wake of a chemical attack in Damascus on Aug. 21.

As HuffPost Live host Ahmed-Shihab Eldin notes, however, both Iran and the U.S. have expressed their dismay over the use of chemical weapons and it appears that leaders from Tehran and Washington have publicly reached out to one another in the past weeks.

"This is an opening for the Iranians and the Americans to actually bridge their differences on an issue which is of interest to both sides," Emad Kiyaei, a researcher at Princeton University, told HuffPost Live. "There hasn't been a better time for the U.S. and Iran to sit down," he said. "There is no other choice but to bring Iran on board."

Professor Flynt Leverett of the University of Pennsylvania cautions, however, that the U.S. still appears unwilling to carve out a larger role for Iran in diplomatic relations with Syria, despite Tehran's close ties to the regime in Damascus. "The administration is still not willing to accept the idea of Iran as an important player," Leverett said.

In fact, the Obama administration has brought up Iran's nuclear program as an integral part of its argument for a military strike on Syria in retaliation for the August attack. "This matters also beyond the limits of Syria's borders," John Kerry said more than a week ago, referring to the importance of striking the nation. "It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction."

Joel Rubin, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, argues on the other hand that the U.S. has shifted its rhetoric on Iran in the past week. "Where earlier there was a large move to say that a U.S. response to Syria will demonstrate real resolve Iran, now, with the diplomatic process stepping to the forefront, we're seeing a different kind of language about figuring out how to pull the strings of the different players in the region."

Watch the full segment in the video above.

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