What has driven Pres. Assad’s trip to Iran?

Alwaght – The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Tehran on Monday for a one-day visit to Iran. He met with the Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani and flew back to his country. The trip to Tehran, the first since the start of the devastating crisis in the country in 2011, is important diplomatically and militarily and sent a set of messages to the world.

New developments in Tehran-Damascus strategic relations

A look at the timing of the visit highlights the depth of the Tehran-Damascus strategic alliance in the Syrian political and military developments and also in the emerging new security order in the West Asia region.

The timing of the trip looks smartly chosen with regard to the developments concerning the Syrian crisis. The war in the Arab country is nearing its end as the central government has regained vast tracts of territories from a variety of foreign-backed terrorist groups that once dominated a majority of the Syrian lands. Now the Damascus government’s success on the battleground is fully achieved. But the political aspect of the crisis remains open for debates and bargaining and each actor tries to build its demands and share on its ground accomplishments. While the regional and international anti-Syrian players are on shaky ground in the game of influence, the visit to Tehran of the Syrian leader displays the unwavering alliance of the Axis of Resistance, led by Iran and including Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. In fact, Bashar al-Assad came to Iran to show off to the world the ongoing Iranian support to go what remains of the road and prevent further foreign intervention and imposition. This comes while over the past few months, some of the Arab countries which severed their diplomatic ties with Damascus upon the outbreak of the home crisis and armed Assad opponents declared an interest in repairing the damaged relations with Damascus and reopening their embassies in Syria if the government separates ways with Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The visit tells them that the Iran-Syria alliance will press ahead even more energetic as it was before and they should not expect cracks in it.

The Syrian leader’s travel to Tehran comes ahead of a scheduled visit of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow for talks with the Russian President Vladimir Putin about the regional developments, with a special focus on Syria. During the trip, the Israeli sources familiar with the matter said, Netanyahu will ask permission of the Russian leader to allow further Israeli strikes on the Syrian government positions. Russia issued a strong-toned warning to Tel Aviv and supplied the Syrian government with S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems when in late September 2018 an Israel air raid on Syria led to downing by mistake of a Russian army reconnaissance airplane by the Syrian air defenses. Since then, the Israeli regime remarkably scaled down its air aggression on Syria.

Now, Assad’s visit to Iran was a confirmation of remarks made recently by chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani who said that Iran achieved 90 percent of its objectives in Syria and warned that Tehran and Damascus will give a different military response should Tel Aviv carries out new raids on the Syrian territories in the future.

The Leader called Assad the “champion of the Arab world”. The label carried an essential political message in its heart: In the future developments, the confrontation with the Israeli regime will upgrade to a new level and the Syrian role and Assad himself will be key in this encounter.

Idlib awaiting decisive choices

The Tehran visit has also another message: The Syrian developments have reached to a degree of sensitivity that require crucial decisions that make the meeting with the Iranian leader a must. For the time being, the important security and military issue is the Idlib province case. Idlib, in northwestern Syria, is the last major stronghold of the foreign-sponsored militias. While the time is up for Turkey to peacefully end the crisis and move the Ankara-supported armed groups out of the province, it is time for a strategic decision to once for all end the terrorists’ presence in the important province. Despite the Russian show of indecision and hesitancy about starting the operation to reclaim Idlib, the Syrian president can make sure that Iran will throw its weight behind him to begin the decisive action. It appears that Russia will at the end of the road resort to the military choice as the latest comments by Kremlin diplomats signal that the diplomatic attempts with Turkey to solve Idlib case peacefully is running into an impasse.