Is Iran following Russia’s lead in Syria?

Al Monitor| Hamidreza Azizi wrote this week that Moscow’s Syria strategy includes helping “Iran and Turkey find common ground on the Syrian crisis and then [it can] concentrate its efforts on further proceeding with a political solution together with Turkey. As such, it could be argued that Iran’s current approach toward the Syrian issue is effectively pursued through the gates of Russia.”

Azizi added that because “the nature of their [the Turkish-Iranian] relationship in Syria to date can best be characterized as a form of rivalry rather than enmity, points of disagreements could be addressed through the adoption of more pragmatism.”

Given the urgency of the humanitarian crisis, the Dec, 20 Russia-Iran-Turkey statement (“Moscow Declaration”) on Syria might be considered something of a diplomatic breakthrough. The very next day, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2332 authorizing UN agencies to cross conflict lines to deliver humanitarian assistance. On Dec. 31, the Security Council unanimously endorsed the Russian-Turkish brokered cease-fire and diplomatic effort to jump-start the political process, including Syrian political negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, timed with the resumption of the UN-led Syrian talks. UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said Jan. 5 that “any initiative such as this one, needs to be supported, and we hope it will succeed and is definitely welcomed.”

While assistance to Syrians cannot come quickly enough, and the latest cease-fire and political talks will face immense challenges, this column will simply note that these recent developments provide the type of diplomatic and humanitarian momentum that are essential to ending the war and achieving a political settlement.

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