Iran follows Russia’s lead in backing Syria safe zones / Iran, Russia move closer over Syria safe zones proposal


29 May 2017 – AL MONITOR – BY Hamidreza Azizi explains that the Russian proposal for de-escalation or safe zones in Syria “is not only the best approach for Moscow and Tehran to preserve their core interests in the country, but it could also act as a factor that brings the two countries even closer together.”

Most critical to Iran, according to Azizi, is that the proposal legitimates Iran’s military presence in Syria. “Since one of the key positions of both the Syrian opposition and its foreign backers has been objection to Iran’s military presence in Syria, the international aspect of the May 4 agreement and the fact that it names Iran as one of the peacekeepers could justify the presence of Iranian troops in Syria on the international stage. This is, in fact, the main reason behind the Syrian opposition’s objection to any Iranian role in the process,” Azizi writes.

“By seizing the opportunity to play an active role in establishing and monitoring the de-escalation zones,” Azizi continues, “Tehran could enhance its international posture, proving that, as it has persistently declared, it is genuinely committed to preserving the cease-fire and facilitating the political process. Through this, the path would be paved for Iran to have an active role in any future political process on Syria.” The de-escalation zones, if effectively implemented, would also preserve Iran’s strategic access to Hezbollah in Lebanon, reduce the military costs of the conflict and provide a check on Turkish actions in Syria, according to Azizi.
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