ELIJAH J.MAGNIER –
Russia is speaking to its allies in the same tone used by U.S President Barack Obama when he addressed his Middle Eastern allies saying “I shall not be drown in your swamp”, in Syria, marking a contrast with Iran about several issues. The main disputes are related to the timing of the ceasefire, which Tehran considers it was agreed too early; the fate of the person of President Bashar al-Assad; and the early announcement of the withdrawal of the Russian air force, when many areas are still under the control of the “Islamic State” group (known as Daaesh or ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra,- Al-Qaeda in the Levant, and their allies.
According high official present in Syria, Russia will withdraw the biggest of its air force from Hmaymeem airport in the coming days and will keep helicopters and jets, sufficient to protect the Russian naval base at Tartus, and support the war on Salafist Jihadists. This move coincides with an agreement between Washington and the Kremlin to impose the capitulation on all fighters without exception, excluding Jihadists. According to the agreement, the U.S will enforce on its regional Middle Eastern allies the cessation of the flow of weapons. Although Moscow doesn’t share the same view but aim for a general unconditional election, Washington and Saudi Arabia would be even happy for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to select the candidate of his choice as long as he steps down. In this way, no party involved in the war in Syria can be defeated but all would come out as winners.
What Washington and the Kremlin accept is unsuitable for Tehran. The person of Assad represents the “axis of the Resistance”. His fall leads to the shaking of the axis. As no one can guarantee the future and he is the person who has accepted to go to war to defend the doctrine and value of this axis he belongs to. Therefore, the removal of Assad is not on Iran’s agenda. For this, Iran and those within the “axis of Resistance” won’t abandon him. Otherwise, the death of thousands of those who helped Assad (Iranian IRGC forces, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia) and tens of thousands of Syrians who fought under his banner would be wasted.
President Barak Obama is distributing cookies on each side: He confirmed that Iran’s interest in the Middle East must be observed, agreed to the nuclear deal, supported the military campaign of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, rejected the Kurdish federation to please Turkey, and is bringing everybody around a negotiation table, along with Russia, for potential undeclared concessions somewhere else. So each side is pleased with a little piece of the cake and no one takes it all.
“Iran did not agree with Russia on the timing of the ceasefire, because its forces were advancing on several axes. Moreover, the withdrawal of the Russian air force came in an inappropriate moment, during the Geneva negotiations. It has affected the negotiations and offered wide speculation and interpretations. When the Russian President Vladimir Putin informed Iran of his intention to withdraw his Air force, he emphasised that this tactical move does not mean that Russia is pulling out from Syria; that the Kremlin can, in 24-hours, bring back the entire fleet to the battlefield if necessary; that the move would be announced only to facilitate the process of a political solution in agreement with the United States. We expressed our concern of the inadequate time of this move and confirmed that we are ready to fill up any gap needed to protect the regime and the country by all means and inject more forces in Syria. Moscow knows now that Iran is not pulling away under any circumstances”, said the source.
“Iran would send more troops to Syria to fill up the Russian void because it does not consider that the removal of al-Qaeda and ISIS is possible without ground forces fighting these groups. The battle will regain soon because both al-Qaeda and ISIS are not interested in any cease-fire or in any political settlement in Syria and enjoy strong ideology to reach their objectives that contradict any USA-Russia deal. Both parties aspire publicly Islamic state and won’t stop before achieving their objectives. This is why the announcement of the end of the war in Syria is premature. ISIS and al-Qaeda will not be removed in the corridors of Geneva or around a secret meeting between the United States and Russia. And last, Iran doesn’t agree that Russia negotiates on behalf of Syria and strike deals with the Americans. Therefore, there are obviously differences between Tehran and Moscow”.
Russia is not sensitive toward the religious differences between Iran and other Middle Eastern countries (mainly Saudi Arabia). Moreover, Turkey considers today that Assad can prevent any partition of the country or even a Kurdish state on the Turkish borders, from al-Hasaka to Efrin. Such a federation endangers Turkey and Syria but could also push Kurds in Iran to rise. While the Turkish-Russian relationship is at the bottom, the Turkish-Iran relationship meets on many political and economical issues.
Although Russia doesn’t mind a federation in Syria, its aim is to prevent the partition of the country, regardless who is in command. Iran doesn’t see any alternative but Assad in power. Moreover, Russia maintains a good relationship with Israel while Iran supports the Syrian President who chooses to distance himself from Israel as a matter of doctrine. Any one who would replace Assad will pave the way to a peace with Tel Aviv”.
Iran shall not back down in its support to Assad, while the United States and Russia believe a solution is possible where all parties are winners. Moscow still supports elections under the auspices of the United Nations, which involved any candidate, including Assad with no particular care to the person. It is also clear that there are tactical differences between the allies. Tehran and Damascus were informed about the latest Russian decisions but not consulted. Moscow entered into the den of the major influential countries in the Middle East from the Syrian gate. If it gets out now of it now, where it is going to go to?
Original article published here: http://www.alraimedia.com/ar/article/special-reports/2016/03/18/665756/nr/syria
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