June 16, 2016

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Why Iran still doesn't trust Russia on Syria (Abbas Qaidaari, June 15, 2016, Al Monitor)

The Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan,] also commented on the temporary cease-fires in Syria, especially in Aleppo, saying, "We agree to a guaranteed cease-fire that does not lead to terrorists building up their powers." Dehghan was referring to a May 7 attack in which members of the anti-Assad coalition Jaish al-Fatah attacked the village of Khan Tuman south of Aleppo, killing 13 Iranian officers and taking several more captive. More importantly, members of the Iranian Green Berets, who were also present on this front, suffered serious loses and had to retreat from their positions. The May 7 incident was the biggest attack on Iranian forces in the country so far, and Iran suffered its greatest human losses since it became involved in the war in Syria.

After the Khan Tuman incident, many Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) strategists who had previously welcomed the Russian military presence in Syria began to express doubt and worry about Moscow's objectives in fighting alongside Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian forces. These strategists and others in Iran who oppose Russia's military presence in Syria now argue that Moscow has no reason to pay a heavy price for only Tehran to reach its objectives, and so Russia must be pursuing its own objectives in Syria without informing Iran.

As such, the media landscape in Iran, previously one of complete trust regarding the Russian presence in Syria, suddenly became dominated by silence and deep skepticism. Political and military officials also started having doubts regarding Russia's objectives in Syria. The administration of President Hassan Rouhani knows full well that the Syrian war has been very costly to Iran's economy, and is therefore not interested in maintaining the status quo. On the other hand, the most important strategic objective of Iran in Syria is keeping open the land-based arms-supply lines from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that are at present almost completely cut off. So far, leaving aside the human and political expenses, Tehran is on the whole estimated to have since 2011 spent $9 billion to $15 billion in Syria alone to achieve this goal. This is while Iranian officials are not 100% confident about Russia's objectives -- and also Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's determination to fight for his stated objectives. 

Several important political and field developments over the past two months have made Iran more suspicious of its Russian strategic partner. These developments include a reported secret agreement between Russia and the United States regarding the Free Syrian Army, Russia accepting the cease-fires without informing Iran and Lebanon and a temporary halt in Russian airstrikes against the moderate Syria opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Iranian interests do not converge with Putin's or Assad's.



Posted by at June 16, 2016 2:58 PM

  

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