Did Iran’s ‘tactical gains’ in Syria end after Russia takeover?

Russia enjoys hegemony over Iran in Syria and Moscow has imposed its interests and road map on Tehran

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The recent three-party conference held in Moscow with the participation of Russia, Turkey and Iran came to a significant end. With mainstream media emphasizing how the US administration was completely sidelined in talks that discussed the future of Syria, a different perspective also sheds light on how Iran was sidelined to an unprecedented degree. Considering that this session ended with a document signed by all three parties, one can take a hard look at the results.

This document emphasizes Syria’s independence and territorial integrity as a multi-racial, multi-religious, non-sectarian, democratic and secular state; underscores the necessity of reaching a political solution; welcomes joint efforts in East Aleppo to evacuate civilians and armed rebels; highlights the need to expand a ceasefire across the country and facilitate access to humanitarian aid; supports a possible agreement between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government; and accentuates continuing joint efforts against terrorism and especially ISIS, differentiating their forces from those of the armed democratic opposition.

A closer look brings us to a preliminary conclusion that most of the articles point to clash of Iran’s interests. For example, Iran was, and remains, fully against the safe evacuation of civilians and rebels from East Aleppo. Iranian President Hassan Rowhani went so far as saying, “Various Islamic states... are worried about the fate of terrorists and seek their safe exit from Aleppo.”

Separating ISIS from FSA

In this document, there is no mention of the Assad regime or any language discussing its remaining in power. And importantly, while Iran went to great lengths to massacre all dissidents and annihilate the entire Syrian opposition under the pretext of fighting ISIS, this document specifically differentiates and recognizes the separate nature of ISIS and the Free Syrian Army.

The Moscow conference also emphasized the role of the United Nations in resolving the Syrian crisis, highlighting the necessity to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 2254. This resolution emphasizes the Security Council as the reference body, also enjoying support from the United States and Saudi Arabia.

There is no reference to Assad’s future role; instead the resolution: “expressed support for free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, to be held within 18 months and administered under United Nations supervision, ‘to the highest international standards’ of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians — including members of the diaspora — eligible to participate.”

Taking these factors into consideration, it appears that Iran literally gained nothing from the Moscow conference, meaning that its participation was merely of a ceremonial nature.

The conference outcome makes it clear that Russia enjoys hegemony over Iran in Syria, and that Moscow has imposed its interests and road map on Tehran, leaving the mullahs no choice but to submit to the status quo. This setback of its hegemony seems a major reason why Iran needed to parade Revolutionary Guards Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani in Aleppo: perhaps to boost an iota of morale in its dwindling base of support.

The road ahead

On the ground, Iran’s hordes of Shiite militias relied completely on Russian air power to take even one step forward. This provides a clear picture of the road ahead. To bring an end to Iran backing Assad’s atrocities, the international community and Middle East states need to begin fundamentally to cooperate in establishing a coalition, parallel to implementing economic and political pressures on Tehran. Companies investing in Iran should also recalculate their priorities.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, went even further to provide a solution for Syria and ISIS: “The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region.”

Iran may have enjoyed tactical gains in Aleppo. However, Russia apparently has separate, long-term interests in complete dissimilarity from those of Tehran. Russia has conducted secret direct talks with the Syrian opposition. To add insult to injury, Iran – viewing the Obama presidency as a golden era – is also concerned about the incoming presidency of Donald Trump and his administration, who seem to have strong views against Tehran.

“The fact that Trump has taken very firm positions against Iran, including threatening to rip apart the nuclear deal, has,” according to The Hill, “already terrified Tehran, representing a major contrast to the ‘golden era’ under Obama.”

This analysis was published by the Gatestone Institute.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime's support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program. He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi & blogs at IranCommentary

Disclaimer - This author is writing under a pseudonym to protect his identity.

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