What started as an alliance between Russian and Iran in Syria was based on the mutual interests in supporting Assad regime and prevent its fall. However, this alliance seems more fragile than ever nowadays, as each power sees a different end for the Syrian crisis.
Russia and Iran found a natural ally in Bashar al-Assad and his regime, and together they made an alliance to save its rule and accomplish their own agenda in the area.
Iran is seeking to widen its influence in the area and Syria was the perfect next step. Iran was able to force control on Iraq after Saddam’s defeat by empowering the Shiite armed militias and planting Iraqi politic figures that rule the country according to Iran’s plans.
Iran also kept its regional rival, Saudi Arabia, under pressure by supporting Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen which overthrown the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and drove the country back to chaos.
Iran in the same time supported Assad regime by money and fighters to defend his role, in return to freeing Iran’s hand in Syria to achieve its long-awaited dream. Iran started a demographic change in the Sunni-populated areas in Syria and sought to change the face of the Syrian cities by forcing the Shiite festivals in the heart of Damascus, adding Syria to the list of its controlled areas and making it gradually the 32nd Iranian province.
Russia lost most of its global power after the Soviet era, and became politically weak after the UN security council ignored its veto more than once to achieve opposing plans as in the conquer of Iraq. Russia found in Syria the chance to retrieve its place especially with Obama in the white house.
By the summer of 2015, President Assad seemed on the verge of being overthrown. Then Russia launched its military intervention.
Russia sent the might of its forces to Syria and saved Assad regime from being overwhelmed by the rebels and became the real governor on the ground.
The Russian intervention tilted the war in favor of Assad regime and cost the rebels many of their strongholds, making Aleppo one of the last ones and the most important pressure point on Assad regime to accept a political solution to end the war. However, Aleppo was eventually lost too, making both Iran and Russia the real players on the ground and proving that only the power can resolve the crisis, not the hollow political calls.
Russia’s influence in Syria made it able again to contradict the west’s strategies and forced itself again as an essential player in the global issues too.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says Tehran and Moscow will continue to cooperate in the Syrian war “until the ultimate goal of eradicating terrorism and restoring peace and full security to the region is achieved.”
The contradicting goals
However, this alliance seems to be fragile and shaky, as the two powers have different views of Syria’s future.
The first sign of this controversy was shown in Aleppo. The military operations in Aleppo ended with a ceasefire surrender agreement.
Under this agreement, the rebels and the remaining civilians in eastern Aleppo had to leave to the rebel-held areas in Idlib. Russia wanted a political solution that saves its face in front of the global community, while Iran wanted nothing but to burn the rebels and besieged civilians to their last.
Iranian-backed militias breached the agreement and blocked the evacuation if civilians until its conditions were met. Videos were published online showing militants attacking and shooting unarmed civilians fleeing from Aleppo.
After Aleppo’s defeat, Russia said its talks with the US about Syria future has ended, and it has a new plan for Syria peace talks which can be achieved with powers that have a real effect on the Syrian ground.
Turkey used its influence over the Syrian opposition, brought them together, and made them accept a deal with the Assad regime.
Russian president Vladimir Putin then said that both the opposition and Asad regime have signed a number of documents including a ceasefire agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition, measures to monitor the ceasefire deal and a statement on the readiness to start peace talks to settle the Syrian crisis.
Putin said that three documents which open the way to solving the Syria crisis.
However, this agreement didn’t end Assad regime’s attacks on the rebel-held areas. The ceasefire were breached in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and most notably in Damascus.
Assad regime forces backed by Hezbollah and Shia militias have launched the attack on Wadi Barada valley in rural Damascus since two weeks, with daily bombing and air raids on the area.
Rebels say the army is seeking to recapture the area, where a major spring provides most of Damascus’s water supplies and which lies on a major supply route from Lebanon to the Syrian capital used by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah also prevented Russian forces from entering the Wadi Barada area to help brovker a proper deal.
The Iranian-backed militias show clearly Iran’s intention to undermine the ceasefire and the upcoming peace talks, as they don’t serve its goals for the region.
Russia needs Syria as a strong country that serves as an ally in the future. Russia wanted to use the peace talks to end in a political solution that ends the Syrian crisis and stops the war and military operations, as the more this war lasts the more Syria will be destroyed and harder to be rebuilt again.
On the contrary, Iran refuses any reconciliation between the government and the rebels. Iran wants the war to last until all the opposition forces are annihilated not caring for the destruction and lost lives. Iran needs Syria as a weak and destroyed land which will be easier to control and easier to be shaped in the future in the way that serves Iran’s goals.
What consequences these breaches will have on the peace talks agreement? And where this controversy between Iran and Russia will eventually lead? Only the coming days will tell, and they be crucial to the Syrian crisis and the future of the region.