Cartoon by Hadjir Katebi

Understanding the Russian-Iranian relationship in Syria

Daily Sabah: In the last few months, slight changes in the rhythm of the military scene in Syria have been observed in parallel to tranquility and a decline in the pace of military action.

But the most important thing is the Russian-Israeli talks, where Israel demanded the removal of Iranian militias from the Syrian border. At that time, the Russian foreign minister said that "only the Syrian army should protect the south of the country," as if he was telling Iran, who supported the Syrian regime for years beside Russia, to leave the south. Immediately afterward, news of an agreement between Israel and Russia came out under which Iran would withdraw from southern Syria and the Bashar Assad regime would take control over the region.

And in an interview with the Tass news agency, the Israeli Ambassador to Moscow asserted that Israel was satisfied with Russia's position on the Iranian military presence on the Israeli-Syrian border. He pointed out that Israel and Russia are engaged in intensive discussions on this issue, while stressing that the presence of Iranian forces in the region is "targeting Israel."

Many believe that the relationship between Russia and Iran may rise to what might be called an alliance, but with detailed analysis it appears to be inaccurate. Russia and Iran are trying to hide their differences as much as possible, but some differences come up from time to time.

A new round of confrontation with Iran began in September 2015, when Russia decided to launch a military operation in Syria. Although Assad is also an ally of Iran, views in Moscow and Tehran differ on post-war arrangements in Syria. The Russian military presence in Syria has also made Iran move to a rear position.

Contrary to the expectations of the Russian side, Iran has not bought Russian aircraft since the lifting of sanctions on Iran, preferring European Airbus aircraft in a deal worth $25 billion. Additionally, Russia was badly affected by Iran's desire to achieve a significant increase in oil exports after the lifting of sanctions.

Gas politics

Russia was stabbed in the back approximately two years ago during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit to Turkey when he declared that Iran was ready to become the guarantor of energy security in Turkey. Many experts believe that these words were directed at Moscow, rather than Ankara, and that Iran was ready to strike the gas market. A mere look at Ankara by Tehran can be understood as a way of showing that Iran is capable of replacing Russian gas in the Turkish market. This would deprive Russia of massive financial flows, and Moscow would lose the only tool to pressure Turkey, which is considered the second-largest consumer of Russia's gas after Germany >>>