Iran hosts a summit between Turkey and Russia to discuss the Syrian civil war. It won’t help


End of July, Tehran trilateral summit brought together Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The annual Tehran summit is an offshoot of the Astana peace process, which aims to end the Syrian conflict.

Moscow and Tehran – allies of the Assad regime – and Ankara, an ally of the rebel forces, initiated this peace process as early as 2017. While the three presidents “reaffirmed their determination to continue their ongoing cooperation in order to eventually eliminate individuals, groups, terrorist enterprises”. and entities”, a strong unified block of partners is unlikely to materialize. However, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara will no doubt strengthen superficial and self-interested ties to counter the US-led Arab coalition.

Turkey’s interest in the Syrian conflict

Since 2011, a devastating full-scale civil war has tormented Syria. While growing economic insecurity has partly catalyzed Syrian civilians to rise up against their government, President Bashar al-Assad’s political oppression has strongly sparked the pro-democracy protests that have swept the country. The Assad regime responded to protesters with lethal force, ordering its security forces to use weapons and ammunition to crush what they called “foreign-sponsored terrorism”. The civil war escalated into a full-scale conflict, incorporating several foreign powers.

As described in a previous 19fortyfive room:

“Iran and Turkey have remained the main supporters of the Assad regime throughout the past decade, while the United States, Turkey, the Gulf States and other Western powers have supported the opposition to varying degrees. Today, Ankara controls much of Syria’s northwest region, while Assad’s army controls the rest of the country with help from Russia and Iran. In recent years, Israel and the United States have carried out airstrikes in Syria targeting Iranian assets. »

In recent months, Erdogan has stepped up his rhetoric outlining plans to launch offensives targeting the common Turkish-Syrian border. In June, the Turkish President declared that his military was moving forward with plans to establish a “security zone” along its southern border.

Erdogan added that Turkish forces would continue their offensive “step by step in other regions”, according to Foreign Policy. At the trilateral meeting in late July, Erdogan asked Moscow and Tehran to support Turkey’s offensive goals and was shut down by his counterparts. Syria is extremely unstable and launching a war would only contribute to the current chaos.

Conflicts bringing Iran and Russia together

While Tehran and Moscow may publicly denounce any war effort for humanitarian reasons, countries have ulterior motives. The Kremlin and the Iranian regime have invested huge sums of money and military aid to keep the Assad family in power. Both countries are experiencing economic difficulties partly due to the international crisis punishments.

After the start of the Kremlin invasion of Ukraine, many Western countries have interrupted their economic transactions with Moscow. Additionally, Tehran is struggling financially due to sanctions imposed by the United States in conjunction with the regime’s failure to comply with nuclear guidelines.

In fact, Moscow and Tehran have looked to each other in recent months to strengthen their relationship and strategize how to evade US sanctions. In July, the White House announced that Tehran was preparing to deliver armed drones to Russian forces. In addition to supplying Russian forces with weapons to continue its offensive in Ukraine, Iran could also train soldiers on drone capabilities.

A month earlier, Moscow and Tehran had signed a mutual trade agreement, establishment shopping centers in the capitals of the two countries. The partnership and cooperation between the two countries has only blossomed since the Biden administration merged the growing Arab-Israeli coalition.

While Moscow and Tehran share common goals in Syria, Ankara is the odd one out. At the end of the trilateral meeting, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said that while Erogdan “had many goals and policies he wanted to impose at the meeting”, the goals “were not achieved through the serious discussions and opinions put forward by the Iranian and Russian friends”. Mekdad refers to Ankara’s insistence that a joint offensive effort targeting “terrorists” in Damascus be given priority. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has contradicted this idea, saying war in Syria would be detrimental to the region.

While Ankara supports rebel entities in Syria, it strongly opposes a semi-autonomous organization Kurdish administration in northeast Syria. Although the three countries have agreed to cease efforts to “create new realities on the group” by the end of the summit, Tehran and Moscow may not buy Tehran’s appeasement.

According to Foreign Policy, “Iranian-backed militias and Syrian government troops are preparing for a confrontation with Turkish forces or at least seeking to deter their advances. The Shia-dominated settlements of Zahra and Nubl, both near Tal Rifaat, have received reinforcements in recent weeks to fortify defenses and prevent parts of Aleppo controlled by the neighboring government from becoming Turkey’s next target.

Despite the appearance of a strong unified front, the Russian-Turkish-Iranian partnership is fragile at best. However, the three countries will work with each other to achieve sometimes distinct, sometimes joint objectives.

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst at the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has lines in numerous publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel.

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