Iran Syria
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad . (photo credit:REUTERS)


Iran appears to be trying to leverage the momentum from the nuclear deal and improved relations with the West in order to achieve some kind of deal that safeguards its interests in Syria and neighboring Lebanon.

According to recent reports, talks are going on behind the scenes to find some kind of compromise solution to stop the fighting in Syria. However, despite all of these efforts an agreement to resolve the conflict, and not just pause it, are unlikely.

Compromise is not a common solution in the Middle East – either victory or defeat are.

The Syrian Sunni dominated opposition and its supporters in the Gulf see themselves as the rightful rulers, which make up a majority of the Syrian population. Furthermore, the Gulf states are loath to see Iran win the proxy war in Syria and keep President Bashar Assad in power.

Likewise, the Iranian Shi’ite axis which includes Syria and Hezbollah have vital interests and do not want to see their ally in Syria fall to their enemies.

The first visit of a top Syrian official to a Gulf Arab state in more than four years took place last week with Syria’s foreign minister meeting with his Omani counterpart in Muscat.

Diplomats say it has been Assad’s allies Russia and Iran who are the prime movers behind the latest push for detente, in the wake of Tehran’s July 14 nuclear deal.

Iran has said it will soon present the United Nations with its own peace plan for Syria. Apparently, the Iranians did not share their diplomatic initiative with the Saudis.

Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite military Quds Force, who is subject to a United Nations travel ban, has met senior Russian officials in Moscow, an Iranian official said on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday the United States should cooperate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight Islamic State and that this required an international coalition uniting all those for whom the jihadists are “a common enemy.” The Obama administration sees the Iran deal as opening up new opportunities with Iran on Syria, including it in some kind of solution. But such talk is a non-starter for Sunnis.

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for the Beirut-based website NOW Lebanon, told The Jerusalem Post that all of this media speculation about a possible deal is just noise.

“The Obama administration and the Iranians want to capitalize on the deal, but the Saudis are not pulling back on getting rid of Bashar,” asserted Badran.

Following the nuclear agreement, “Iran wants to cement the perception that it is now an inevitable, principal interlocutor on regional affairs,” he said adding, “In this, it is backed by the Obama administration.”

“But beyond this, there is actually nothing there in terms of substance or a change in the attitude of any of the players, which is why this is noise,” added Badran.

“We are in garbage time as the Saudis wait out Obama,” he said.

Yuri Teper, a Russian expert from Ariel University told the Post that if the mentioned Iranian-Russian meeting took place, “I’m inclined to believe they discussed ways to fight Islamic State.”

The meeting between the Russians and Saudis is probably concerned mainly with the oil prices, said Teper, who is also a fellow at the Israeli Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

“The proposition regarding some kind of a deal that includes Assad stepping down looks unlikely,” asserted Teper, adding that such rumors have been circulating for some time. He attributes this to the assumption that the Saudis will not stop financing the rebels and that the Iran and Russia likewise do not want to loose their influence in Syria.

The big question that arises here, he asks, is what the Russians and Iranians would gain from such a deal? If all they get out of it is some cooperation against Islamic State, then Teper says, it would not be worth it for them.

“Moreover, Russians are very suspicious of the Saudis and many in the Russian establishment see Saudis as American agents and allies,” argued Teper. “This is a false and surely oversimplified view, but it is very common in the Russian establishment.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post