MESOP BACKGOUNDER : December 23 – Iran’s regime continues to hail “victory” in Syria’s largest city Aleppo, but trouble may loom with Russia, the other major supporter of the Assad regime.

The Supreme Leader’s top aide, Ali Akbar Velayati, praised Tuesday’s meeting of Russia, Iran, and Turkey as a “major development”, since Ankara has up to now backed the Syrian opposition and rebels:In the past, Iran and Russia have been on one side, and Turkey on the other. Today, however, these three countries have formed the premise for achieving… the liberation of the Syrian government and people from the hands of foreigners.Velayati said he hoped that “through this meeting, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the legitimate government of Syria will be stabilized, the people will escape this ruinous war, the terrorists will be driven out of Syria, and Syria will be out of the hands of foreigners.”

Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, also hailed the Moscow talks as “completely supporting the independence and sovereignty of Syria and giving priority to the political process”. He said the outcome testified to the “true strategy of the Islamic Republic since the outbreak of terrorism in Syria”.

However, at the same time, Shamkhani implicitly challenged Russia over its political approach amid the imminent reoccupation of all of Aleppo by pro-Assad forces.

For the second time in three days, the Secretary denounced Monday’s UN Security Council resolution mandating international monitors in Aleppo and other parts of Syria.

Russia was instrumental in the unanimous adoption of the resolution. After casting six vetoes in the Security Council over the Syrian crisis since 2011 — the most recent two weeks ago over a call for a ceasefire in Aleppo — Moscow worked with France on a compromise text authorizing the monitors. But Shamkhani was scathing in his rejection on Wednesday: “Instead of biased resolutions and statements, serious resolve is needed to block the funneling of arms, forces, and financial aid [to Syrian rebels].”

Despite Tuesday’s meeting in Moscow, which looked to political talks in the near-future between the Assad regime and a nominal “opposition” in Kazazhstan, Iran and Russia face imminent questions over the next steps after the Aleppo operations.

Foremost among those questions is whether Tehran and Moscow support President Assad’s ambition to crush the opposition and rebels in their remaining areas of Syria, notably Idlib Province in the northwest.