Russia to Stick With Iran Alliance on Syria Solution

Russia to Stick With Iran Alliance on Syria SolutionRussia to Stick With Iran Alliance on Syria Solution

An expert on Russian politics believes Moscow will maintain its successful partnership with Tehran on Syria, although the lingering conflict in the war-stricken Arab country is slowly heading toward a political solution and differences may arise between the two countries during the process.

Russia became involved in the conflict in Sept. 2015 by lending its air strength to the Syrian Army, joining Iran which was providing the anti-terror drive in Syria with advisory assistance since early months of the over six-year crisis.

A godsend for Syrian troops, the Russian airpower helped them achieve back-to-back victories over militants wreaking havoc on the Arab country.  

Since late 2016, when the liberation of Aleppo effectively drove the final nail on the coffin of regime change dreams in Syria, Russia and Iran started working with Turkey, a staunch backer of the Syrian government’s opponents, to work out a political settlement to the conflict.  

They have maintained a ceasefire covering most of Syria and are preparing to set up four de-escalation zones in militant-held areas of the country.

An announcement by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu earlier this month that the three-year Russian campaign in Syria was “coming to its end” has triggered a flurry of speculation over the future course of Moscow’s policies in the country.

In a recent interview, Shuaib Bahman, a specialist in Russian affairs, told the Iranian Diplomacy news website that he predicts Moscow will continue to stay by Iran in the new landscape.

Bahman said Iran and Moscow have had different goals regarding the Syrian conflict, but they saw their interests in line with each other and this pulled them together to assist the government.

“For Iran, saving Syria was saving the resistance axis [against Israel], while this was not the case with Russia.  

“Moscow defines its Syria presence as part of its geopolitical rivalry with the US,” Bahman said, adding that Russians are after reviving their previous status as a world power.  

The expert said in the coming months, as the crisis is moving from a military conflict toward a security one, new differences may emerge between the two countries, including over the political structure of the Syrian government and the role of regional and trans-regional players in the country, but these points of contention are natural and much smaller than their differences with other stakeholders.  

Bahman said one should keep in mind that Moscow could decide not to engage in the Syria conflict in the first place, or it could even side with wealthy backers of government’s opponents, but it choose to side with Tehran because it was aware of its power.

“The course of developments in the past three years has demonstrated Iran’s geopolitical power and its influence in the region more than before, and Russia knows that well.”

  Moscow-Riyadh Ties Not to Affect Tehran

Another development prompting speculation about a possible change in cordial relations between Tehran and Moscow was a trip by Saudi King Salman to Russia early this month.

During the Saudi monarch’s visit to Moscow, the oil kingdom signed multi-billion dollar contracts to make investments and buy weapons, notably the S-400 air defense system.

The major deals, along with the warm welcome Russia gave to the Saudi king, led some commentators to see Salman’s Moscow visit as a betrayal of the Russian-Iranian partnership.

Bahman said Russia has adopted a “pragmatic, flexible” foreign policy that believes the Cold War and its political blocs are history and it should engage with virtually all regional and trans-regional players to maximize its benefits.

However, the expert said it does not necessarily mean Russia is going to play one side against another, and he thinks Russia’s increasingly good relations with Saudis are not a threat to its partnership with Iran.

“Russia won’t sacrifice its strategic Iran relationship to cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Israel, and vice versa,” he said.

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