MESOP INSIGHT: Tehran Maneuvers With Russia Over Syria

December 20 – Preparing for the next stage in Syria’s 69-month conflict, Iran is staking out its position with Russia and Turkey. Iranian media gave no detail of the discussion but put out Rouhani’s declaration, “It is very important that the Syrian people feel they are not alone in the fight against terrorists.” The President also juxtaposed his concern for humanitarian assistance — despite Iran’s involvement in Russian-regime sieges — with the supposed “disregard for the innocent people” by Western countries.

The accounts declared that Putin “also stressed the importance of dispatching humanitarian aid to Syrians, saying the international community, including Iran and Russia, is obligated to protect and support the defenseless Syrian people across the country”.

The Kremlin said that Putin and Rouhani “underlined the need for joint efforts to launch a real political process aimed at a quick settlement in Syria”.

Today’s meeting in Moscow is the first trilateral session between Iran, Russia, and Turkey, but cooperation has been building for months despite the Russian-Iranian backing for the Assad regime and Ankara’s support of Syrian rebels.

Further issues have been raised by the imminent recapture of Syria’s largest city Aleppo by foreign forces — including Iranian troops and Iranian-led Iraqi and Afghan militias — alongside the Assad regime’s units. Iran appears ready to support President Assad’s ambition to crush the Syrian opposition in its remaining areas, including Idlib Province in northwest Syria; however, this could clash with Turkey’s alliance with rebels in an offensive that has taken much of Aleppo Province since August.

In between Tehran and Ankara, Russia faces the decision of backing more military operations or settling for a de facto partition of Syria which keeps President Assad in power and secures Russian influence across much of the country.