Russian-Iranian relations after the trilateral strike

Al-Quds Al-Arabi Apr. 28, 2018, issue 9168, p. 21

It is certain that the Russian-Iranian relations are a matter of mutual interest. The support provided by Moscow to Tehran during the Iran nuclear program talks concerned mainly two points: First: Tehran is one of the most important countries hostile to American influence in the Middle East and has a significant influence in many of the regional countries. The second is that the lifting of the embargo on Iran means more military contracts with Moscow and therefore the Russian administration has opened a major military market. Tehran is the country that mostly seeks to expand by using military means.

Green light

The Iranian military market is not limited to the Iranian army and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, but extends to the militias of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Many Western reports have also confirmed that Tehran has begun recruiting new militias on the African continent. As is well known in politics, the language of interest may change based on international, individual and financial balances. There are many examples, including the relationship between the dictator of Muhajireen* and Erdoğan before the Syrian revolution, which developed impressively and rapidly, but since the beginning of the revolution, Turkey’s interest has been aligned with the Sunni block against the Assad regime, so their relationship became hostile.

It is important to recall a point about the Syrian revolution: the Russian military intervention in Syria did not come so much from the request or the supplication of senior Iranian leader Ali Akbar Velayati during his visit to Moscow in September 2014 but was made with the green light from the US and Israel. The Obama administration saw Syria as a big quagmire to drain the Russian forces, while Tel Aviv believed that the Russian presence would be a safety valve to prevent any madness of Tehran or its instruments in Syria. Thus, Tel Aviv through Moscow maintains in the leadership the Syrian regime, which has always been powerless in front of the powerful hand of Israel. In this context, the general views of Tehran and Moscow are identical in some issues and differentiate in others. Tehran sees the survival of the Muhajireen dictator as a necessity that cannot be changed, while Moscow believes that the weak and humiliated Assad is the perfect Kadirov of Syria. They differ, however, in the issue of ultimate influence in the Syrian arena, since they both claim uniqueness in the future of the country.

Dark tunnel

In recent months, Russia-Iranian relations in Syria have entered a dark tunnel. The Iranians have reduced their support for the military operations being conducted by Moscow in the east of Syria, the outskirts of Deir ez-Zor and the natural areas fields of Koniko and Omar. Tehran sought to prevent a preliminary agreement between Ankara and Moscow on the operation “Olive Branch” by providing support to Kurdish militias. Tehran also continues to express its immediate concern to the Russian government about Turkey’s growing role in Idlib and its surroundings. The important thing is that Moscow sees a number of reasons to redesign the Syrian map under the shadow of the Iranian presence which is Tehran’s harassment in Tel Aviv. Iranian unmanned aircrafts, equipped with rockets that took off from the T-4 military airport and were shot down by the Israeli air defense at the Golan Heights, were the warning that caused the Russian reaction.

New course of events

The three surgical blows against the Syrian dictator’s chemical program constituted, in my opinion, a new turning point in developments in the Syrian arena, which many observers could see in a pessimistic view that they were not enough and did not change the balance in the field. Logically, this view is correct, but the attack has fairly faint points to which we have to stand. The most important question posed by the defenders and the Shabiha of the Assad regime, as well as its allies is that since the victory in Douma was unavoidable, why did it need to use chemical weapons that could make it face a western slap?

The answer to this question will explain the importance of the tripartite attack. It is known that Assad clearly committed this crime. But there are some interesting details. The helicopter that dropped chemical weapons in the city of Douma took off from the Al Dumayr military airport which is under the direct control of the Russian Khmeimim base. Many local and western reports have confirmed that the particular airport has been transformed since the beginning of 2017 into an advanced Russian base that controls the central part of Syria. Therefore, the attack had the green light of Russia. On the other hand, Iran’s total silence after the attack raises many questions about the possibility that Moscow had orchestrated it for its own reasons. The Western claim of Moscow’s direct role in the offensive, without mentioning Tehran, confirms that Western intelligence services certainly have clear evidence that Moscow is behind it. The next question that arises is why Russia needed this act?

Negotiating channel with Washington

Many Western media reported that Moscow opened a negotiating channel with Washington on the size of the trilateral strike. These negotiations, the results of which have not been released in the media, are at the heart of the issue. The enormous forces brought to the Eastern Mediterranean by the Western triple alliance confirm that the level of the operation would be high. It is therefore confirmed that there is no doubt that agreement has been reached, a view supported by the fact that Israeli raids targeted Iranian positions in Syria after the tripartite attack. Israel included at least 25 Iranian military posts from Deir ez-Zor, passing through Homs to north and south of Aleppo, even the Syrian south in the vicinity of Khan Arnabah. The range of these raids confirms that it is within the framework of this agreement that Israel will immediately undertake to weaken Iranian influence with Moscow’s cover.

Iran’s survival in Syria undoubtedly depends on Israel’s view. Similarly, Russian stability is inevitably linked to Israeli feeling of comfort. The final decision by the Washington neoconservative administration on the nuclear agreement with Iran will not be satisfactory for Tehran. Thus, the region will face a conflict from Tehran and Hamadan to Beirut, which means that Russia’s alignment with Tehran may be affected by the fire of this confrontation, which will push Moscow to impose a fait accompli on Assad: either limit to his relationship with Moscow or be among the papers that will be hit by the next wave.

* Bashar al-Assad