According to a Reuters report, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has rejected the concept of a Syrian political transition underlying the June 2012 Geneva Final Communique and the more recent Vienna Joint Communique issued only days ago. Mekdad told Syrian state television during a visit to Tehran, “We are talking about a national dialogue in Syria and an expanded government and a constitutional process. We are not at all talking about what is called a transitional period, [an idea existing] only in the minds of those who do not live in reality.” The salient reality is that an ‘expanded’ Syrian government—a prime minister and a cabinet—would continue to lack executive power, all of which would continue to reside in the regime: the Assad-Makhluf clan and its enforcers.

As noted in SyriaSource, the Assad regime has rejected the P5 (Geneva) and UN Security Council calls for political transition in Syria to a pluralistic and democratic system from the beginning, and that the success of the Vienna initiative would depend on two factors. First, Russia and Iran prevailing on Syria to reverse its rejection. Second, Moscow and Tehran obliging the regime to cease bombings of civilian residential areas and to lift starvation and disease sieges in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2139. Bombings continue, the sieges remain in place, and regime’s rejection of the Security Council’s will prevails.

The fact that Mekdad’s defiant announcement took place in Tehran is further evidence that Iran wishes Assad to remain in power—even if only in a corner of Syria—indefinitely. We may be witnessing the opening chapter of a Vienna process featuring the West being whipsawed in a bad cop-worse cop routine between Moscow and Tehran, each of which—for its own reasons—wants Assad to hold on indefinitely. If past is prologue, the West will prefer the whipsawing to taking action to protect Syrian civilians from daily war crimes and crimes against humanity.