MESOP NEWS : THE AXIS TEHRAN WITH ASSAD – Tehran Bolsters Syria’s Assad in Damascus Visit

EAST KURDISTAN (IRAN) – Syrian State media’s handout photo of Bashar al-Assad with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, January 27, 2018 – Discussion amid uncertainty over Russia’s initiative for “national congress”. With Russia’s political strategy over the 82-month Syrian conflict running into trouble, Iran has bolstered Bashar al-Assad with a Ministerial visit to Damascus.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari and Assad had a photo opportunity on Saturday, followed by a summary of Assad’s standard declaration of resolve in a battle against “terrorism” with the help of Iran and Russia.

Ansari’s visit came as the long-delayed Russian initiative for a “national congress” in the southern Russian city of Sochi, taking the political lead away from years of UN-brokered talks in Geneva, hit another obstacle.Moscow had hoped to convene the regime and Syrian factions, including the opposition, in Sochi on Monday. However, on Saturday the opposition High Negotiations Committee — which had met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow earlier in the week — confirmed that it will not participate.

The situation has been further complicated by the launch on January 19 of a Turkish-rebel offensive against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and Kurdish militia YPG in northwest Syria. Ankara had already hindered the Russian proposal for the Sochi conference by objecting to the involvement of factions such as the PYD and YPG.Iranian State media summarized that Assad and Jaberi Ansari discussed both the plans for Sochi and the Turkish-rebel offensive.

Iranian officials are also reportedly concerned that Russia and the Assad regime have been making plans for economic initiatives and reconstruction which cut out Tehran. Iranian media made no reference to the issue in their accounts of the Saturday meeting. Syrian State news agency SANA merely said, “Strategic Syrian-Iranian ties and the mutual desire to boost them were high on the agenda.”