Despite the talk about coordination between Russia and Israel over Syria, experts have raised questions about the future of cooperation between Moscow and Tehran in this country, especially considering the expansion of Russia’s military presence in Syria that is looking to be more and more similar to a permanent presence. Dispatching reinforcements by Moscow – including the highly advanced S400 anti-air missile system following the explosive situation between Russia and Turkey – was one such move. These state-of-the-art missile systems will be sued for other purposes far from anything related to the war against ISIS, with a no-fly zone imposed against Turkish fighter jets topping the list. As long as Washington and Moscow fail to coordinate their measures in Syria, these reinforcements will make the mission for the U.S.-led international coalition in Syria far more complicated.
It is worth noting that Russia recently has recently made advances aimed at taking control over new “airbases” in Syria, some very close to Homs and other areas that are considered vital for Iran and its ally in Lebanon.
Despite the Russian Defense Ministry’s emphasis on Moscow not being interested in establishing new bases in Syria, they then corrected those comments and said, “Based on the permission the Syrian request from Russia provides, Moscow has the right to use all units and military bases to carry out its missions.”
Russian media are covering the vague case of Moscow-Tehran relations with the utmost care. According to military officials there are talks of the importance of reaching a coordination and similar interests in Syria. However, in the meantime the very analysis published in this regard clearly shows that Russia’s influence in Syria is little by little forcing Iran out of the equation. Furthermore, official remarks heard from Kremlin or the Russian Foreign Ministry have never mentioned Iran as a major party amongst Russia’s allies in Syria, while they are constantly referring to “government forces and Kurdish units”. Subsequently, Russian experts are also monitoring the anxiety of senior Iranian officials such as Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani to “appear” in areas leveled by Russian airstrikes, such as what took place in Aleppo a few weeks ago.
In addition to their cooperation with Israel, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized on this matter once again in a session with Russian military officials held to propose movement plans for 2016. This appears to be causing dilemmas for Iran and its allies in Syria. Russian experts resort to a number of arguments that strengthen the theory of “competition and certitude of interest conflicts” between Moscow and Tehran.
Feodor Lukyanov, President of “Policy Making and Defense Council” with close ties to the Kremlin says Russia “is facing a tough deal.” Let alone the power structure there, Russia needs to guarantee its geopolitical presence in the future Syria. In the meantime, Moscow must also prevent its relations with Iran from crumbling because Iran is “a very important regional partner in the future.”
Protecting the current regime in Syria is vital for Iran because “Tehran believes any change will be catastrophic for Iran’s dominance,” Lukyanov added. This is a very sensitive matter, he says, adding he believes the problem of Syria “is nearly the only subject that strengthens the relationship between Moscow and Iran. However, in other areas, the Russians only have suspicious viewpoints about Iran.” Russia has no intention to play “the role of a superpower defending the ambitions of a regional state,” he continued.
No solution is practical in Syria without a political reconstruction of the Middle East, and this is a very heavy mission with countless threats, Lukyanov added.
One of the main examples of divides between Iran and Russia is the retreat seen by Revolutionary Guards forces in Syria. Based on a Bloomberg news agency report, most of the IRGC forces have been pulled out of Syria and according to a report obtained from inside Iran the IRGC had 7,000 boots on the ground, while only 700 remain.
As long as the Godfather of terrorism, being Iran, continues its illegitimate military presence in the region, including in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and … there is no positive outlook in the war against terrorism. The first condition is for the U.S. and European states to be very serious in the war against terrorism. This means evicting and cutting off the hands of the Iranian regime from Syria and Iraq that are currently the main epicenters of exporting terrorism through the world.