Iran Russia

Iran, Russia closest allies in Syria: Pundit

Alwaght – The frequent Israeli air aggressions against Syria over the past years finally drew a response from Damascus which on May 10 fired 68 missiles on Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights and other locations.

Shortly after the unprecedented reaction, the Syrian government said it was planning to soon launch a military operation to take back from the foreign-backed terrorists in Daraa and Quneitra in the south of the country.

The US Department of State immediately issued a statement, opposing the upcoming Syrian anti-terror assault and warned that if Damascus launches its operation in the region where a ceasefire last year was brokered by the US, Russia, and Jordan, it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response.

Tel Aviv that often justifies its airstrikes on the Syrian government’s positions by arguing that it wants to repel Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah presence in southern Syria and close to the occupied Palestinian borders, sent its Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow to express to the Russian officials his regime’s opposition to Syrian army’s decision to liberate the south. When he came back home, the Israeli and Western media claimed the two agreed on free Israeli military strikes on the allied Iranian and Hezbollah forces across Syria. Reflecting comments by Russian officials including those by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia who on May 29 called on all foreign parties to leave the “de-escalation zones” in Syria’s south immediately, Israeli media alleged cracks are hitting the alliance between Iran and Russia, both staunch supporters of Damascus.

In an interview with Shoaib Bahman, an Iranian expert of the Russian affairs, Alwaght brought in spotlight the state of Moscow-Tehran cooperation in Syria.

Commenting on the degree of Iranian-Russian interests’ overlap in Syria, Mr Bahman said two major factors bring the two sides under a single alliance in the war-ravaged Arab nation: First, the common interests they pursue either in bilateral ties or on the international stage and econd, the will to confront the common threats. Both of them seek to save Syria’s political structure and territorial integrity, while they share the view on the need to repel the US attempts to create artificial crises in the region. They also take a confrontational approach to some regional players’ ambitions, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in the crisis-hit state. Tehran and Washington, on the other side, fight Syria-based terror organizations and stage efforts to prevent terrorism spread to their national territories.

“So, now the Russian and Iranian partnership, particularly in Syria, has complicated security, intelligence, and military layers. That is what perpetuates their cooperation. In fact, as long as they see common interests and risks, Russia and Iran will have a coordinated view of the Syrian conflict.”

The Iranian expert also had his say about the reasons driving the Arab-Western media’s allegations about the division between Tehran and Moscow in Syria’s future case, saying they first want to see cooperation disruption and finally its halting. After all, he continued, Iran-Russia axis put a wrench in the works of many regional and international actors seeking a role in the crisis. Presently, almost all of them are frustrated by a failure to meet their goals, while Iran and Russia turn out having the upper hand.

“We can understand the case better if we know that for the first time in the contemporary history of West Asia region a mechanism has been developed to settle a large-scale conflict without the involvement of the West, particularly the US. This was made possible with Tehran-Moscow’s joint work over the past few years. Of course, this does not appeal to the West and its regional allies. So, they misrepresent the very ordinary comments by these two countries’ officials in a way to create a sense of Moscow-Tehran’s huge dispute of stances. But the truth is that as of now, the Russian-Iranian stances as two key players in Syria are the closest among those of others. If we compare stances of such actors as the US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, we can see that they are immersed in way deeper dispute of views over the Syrian future.”

Asked about claims of Israeli-Russian agreement on Syria’s south, Mr Bahman noted Tel Aviv’s demands for Resistance Forces’ (Iranian and Hezbollah forces) pullout of the southern Syrian borders with the occupied Palestinian territories is not new. Since Russian intervention in 2014, this demand was standing. But the significant thing is that neither Russia nor any other party cannot make any promises on the issue. The Syrian government has the last word on who should stay on its soil.

“Nevertheless, the Russians have some considerations regarding Israel that makes them take no serious reactions to regime’s attacks on Syria. Sometimes, Kremlin’s position comes in a way that even echoes support for Tel Aviv’s hostile actions. We should take into account that nearly one-fifth of the Israeli population is of Russian descent who hold economic and political sway in the regime and its parliament known as Knesset. And add to this the Russian consideration for Russia-rooted people not only in occupied Palestine but also across the world. Take the Ukraine crisis, for example, where Kremlin leaders intervened in favor of Russia descendants. So, the Russian leaders seek to keep neutral in Iranian-Israeli dispute. But they also are concerned about potential military confrontation between Resistance camp and Tel Aviv that risks spoiling Russian achievements over the past years.”

The Iranian expert also touched on the outlook of Russian-Iranian ties, maintaining past years’ diplomatic, military, and intelligence work brought Tehran and Moscow under the umbrella of an alliance. But, he added, they need to engage in sustainable partnership if they want a lasting relationship. They need to expand their cultural and economic interactions, and should not stop short of political and security collaboration. If this happens, they for the first time in their history of relations can form a strategic alliance.