Iran and Russia … Who will lead the Assad of Syria? – June 17, 2017

In Tehran, on 9 June 2016, a meeting between Russian, Syrian and Iranian Defense Ministers took place. This meeting was characterized by the lack of convergence between the Russians and the Iranians about their strategic aspirations in Syria. After the end of the five-hour meeting, the Russian Defense Secretary met with Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary-General of the Iranian High Security Council.

There was no mention in the media about the outcome of this meeting. All that was said was that ministers stressed the importance of cooperating in the fight against terrorism. However, it is worth noting that four days after the meeting of the three ministers, Ali Shamkhani was appointed by the Iranian leadership as the Iranian military envoy to Syria.

Ali Saleh Shamkhani was born in Ahvaz, in the southwest of Iran. He studied Agriculture and received a postgraduate degree in Management and Military Strategy, after the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Shamkhani has greatly contributed to the dissolution of the opposition forces of the Islamic Revolution, and his personality is described as strong, violent and purely militaristic.

Also, just two days after this meeting, a group of 500 Hezbollah fighters crossed the border of Lebanon with Syria. These fighters belong to the Al Radwan Battalion. They are the most experienced and well trained Hezbollah soldiers. They have been trained in Iran and participated in the 2006 war with Israel. Also, many of them are internationally wanted because they were training terrorist groups in Africa.

Why did the 500 Shiite fighters enter Syria? To open the second big battle, after Palmyra. Where? In Raqqa. They will try to take control of the city from ISIS, supporting the government forces that have been operating there for a week unsuccessfully, as they do not even seem to be able to reach the city.

This is against Russian planning, because the Russians support the Kurds in creating a federal Kurdish state in the north of Syria. That is why the attacks by the governmental forces against ISIS are not supported by the Russian militants, which proves the Russian opposition to these moves.

The aim of the Russians – like the Americans – is to give Rakka to the Kurds, which, of course, neither Assad nor the Iranians want. With the contribution of the 500 Hezbollah fighters, the Iranians will seek to occupy the city quickly, preventing any move by the Kurds.

Russia’s response to these Iranian actions was the announcement of joint military exercises with Israel, without even mentioning the exact location and time. Iran’s strengthening of Syria has led the Israelis to repeatedly demand assurances from the Russians that they will not allow the creation of another Hezbollah on the border with Syria that could bomb Israel. For this reason, Israeli fighters have repeatedly bombed Hezbollah trucks carrying rockets coming from Iran, killing several of its leaders, with Russian blessings of course.

Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has no economic cause. The main reasons for this participation are to put pressure on Europe for Ukraine, as well as to prove that it is equally strong player in the region. It is a matter of prestige.

For the Russians, Assad’s stay in power is negotiable, while for the Iranians absolutely unchangeable, as he is their main ally in the implementation of their plans since the Iranian Islamic Revolution for the creation of the Shiite Arc in the Middle East.

The gap in the strategies of the two countries will have an impact on Europe, since as the war does not end, the Syrian people’s drama will continue and the waves of refugees can not be stopped, but they will be used as a means of pressure from Russia.