Astana Talks

Why Iran wants ‘de-escalation’ zones in Syria

Al-Monitor | Hamidreza Azizi: The latest round of Syria peace talks in Astana concluded May 4 with Russia, Iran and Turkey — the three guarantors of the cease-fire — agreeing on a plan to establish “de-escalation zones” in Syria. The initiative, which was first put forward by Moscow with the declared aim of securing the fragile truce and making it easier to concentrate on the political process, sparked different reactions by the various involved parties.

Although UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura commended the agreement as “an important, promising, positive step in the right direction,” the United States presented a more cautious approach, saying that more details are needed to judge the exact nature of the plan. On the other hand, while the Syrian government declared its full support for the Russian initiative, the main coalition representing the Syrian opposition in Astana refused to accept it, expressing reservations about its noninclusive territorial scope and also the role of Iran as one of the peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, although Iran as a signatory to the May 4 agreement has officially accepted Moscow’s plan and committed to actively take part in its implementation, there has not yet been any detailed statement by the Iranian side regarding what Tehran really thinks about the requirements and possible effects of the de-escalation zones or why Iran has decided to support the idea. The question of Iran’s position is important considering that for a long period of time it had persistently opposed the idea of creating any “safe zones” or “no-fly zones” on Syrian territory. So what convinced Tehran to reconsider its position?

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