The Turkish Armed Forces launched missile strikes against Iranian-controlled groups in Idlib. If the Turks do not stop the chaotic shelling of northwestern Syria, the Iranians threaten revenge. Why, amid difficult relations with Moscow, Ankara has escalated with Tehran- another important participant in the Syrian settlement – in the RIA Novosti article.
Closed skies over Idlib
The situation in Idlib province in northwestern Syria continues to deteriorate. In the battle for control of these territories, Turkey openly supports the Syrian opposition and strikes government armored vehicles and anti-aircraft systems. Even after Bashar al-Assad’s army closed the skies over the province, the Turkish drones have not stopped hitting single targets. Thus, over the past days, a truck with ammunition, an armored vehicle, and a motorcycle were destroyed from the air. Later it became known that Turkish air defenses shot down two Syrian Su-24 fighter jets over Idlib, but the pilots managed to catapult.
Russia calls on Turkey to reduce the activity of ground operations and to continue to displace Hay’ at Tahrir al-Sham militants from the territory. As for the air attacks, Moscow refused to guarantee the safety of Turkish aviation flights in the conditions of the closed skies over the province. The Russian Center for Reconciliation of Warring Parties explained that the decision on the no-fly zone in northwest Syria was taken by the authorities because of the sharp aggravation of the situation
Tehran is not Damascus”
Calls for Turkey to stop shelling in Idlib and the adjacent territories were also voiced from Iran. For its part, the Iranian Advisory Center in Syria, which provides military support to Assad’s army, has pledged not to attack the Turkish military.
Turkish Army units are located in the pro-Iranian militia zone in the northwest of the country. Tehran acts with restraint and does not go on the attack. But the military-controlled by Ankara continues to shoot at our positions and bases,” the advisory center said.
The Iranian military called on the Turks to act in Idlib “strictly rationally and in accordance with the interests of the Syrian and Turkish peoples.” If Ankara ignores these signals, the Islamic Republic is ready to avenge the bombing of its bases in Syria.
“Tehran is not Damascus, we will not tolerate and listen to Moscow, even if it asks for it,” the Iranian Advisory Center said in a statement.
Unlike the harsh rhetoric of the military, President Hassan Rouhani is still acting through diplomacy. In a telephone conversation with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he proposed a trilateral meeting on Idlib. According to the Iranian leader, Tehran, Damascus, and Ankara could be the main participants in the negotiations. It is not necessary to invite Moscow into this format, Rouhani concluded. However, he did not dispute Russia’s important role in the Syrian settlement.
In the first days of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Iran sided with Bashar al-Assad. The Iranian military arrived in Damascus to disperse the opposition in Syrian cities, and then to fight the Islamic State. Among them are elite units of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Tehran also provided financial support to the paramilitary Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has taken up positions in southeastern Syria since the beginning of the Syrian conflict and has been holding back Assad’s opponents there.
The Iranian authorities also began to supply the Syrian government with weapons, to share intelligence and money with Damascus. Throughout the conflict, Iran has provided energy supplies to Syria. The only mobile operator operating on the Syrian territory was Iranian. Tehran has received most of the contracts for the development of new mineral deposits. All this was explained by the strategic alliance of the two countries.
While Moscow’s role in the Syrian conflict was limited to military support for government forces, Tehran has ensured the vitality of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in all other areas. As a result, the Iranian authorities became the main sponsors and patrons of the Syrian government.
Since 2017, Iran, together with Russia and Turkey, has been participating in the Astana format of negotiations on the Syrian settlement. Despite the fact that largely thanks to these contacts managed to stabilize the situation in Syria, Tehran’s participation in them drew criticism from observers. Especially in Israel and the United States. They called the IRGC’s presence in Damascus a direct threat to the security of the Jewish state.
Tel Aviv and Washington repeatedly shared their fears with Moscow and demanded to withdraw the Iranian military from the Syrian-Israeli border. Benjamin Netanyahu’s order targeted Tehran’s targets in Syria under the pretext of self-defense.
However, Iran did not yield. For a long time, neither Russia nor Turkey was able to convince the Ayatollah regime to soften its positions and redeploy the troops. Two years ago, pro-Iranian forces in Syria were withdrawn from the border with Israel. And this is the merit of Moscow. But there are Hezbollah fighters in these territories who continue to irritate Israel.
Relations between Turkey and Iran have remained stable throughout the Syrian conflict. They were not spoiled by the fact that Tehran supported the Assad regime, and in Ankara were its opponents.
For a long time, the authorities of the Islamic Republic did not support the idea of a military operation of Damascus in Idlib, which the head of the Center for Islamic Studies of the Institute of Innovation Development Kirill Semenov connects with Tehran’s reluctance to go against Erdogan. The Syrian army launched its offensive on Idlib in May last year. That, the first phase of the operation lasted until September. However, Iran did not participate in it. I joined only in December, trying to act not to the detriment of Turkey,” the political scientist explains to RIA Novosti.
The other day, the Turks bombed pro-Iranian forces in Syria. We are talking about the headquarters of Hezbollah and the IRGC. About 30 people were killed. At the same time, Tehran claims that they gave the Turks the coordinates of the deployment of their proxies in Syria. But that did not stop Ankara. And the threats of Iranian revenge were not made from scratch,” said Semenov. cooperation, strategic partners Iran and Turkey have never been. When pro-Iranian forces entered Idlib, it became clear that Tehran was ready to do anything to prevent the Assad regime from weakening. The logic here is simple: any weakness of the Syrian president will be perceived as a weakness of Iran. This cannot be allowed to happen. Hence Rouhani’s harsh reaction to Turkey,” the expert explains to RIA Novosti.
The decision on Idlib, according to Kozhanov, will depend primarily on the Russian-Turkish agreements. The expert gives Tehran the role of Moscow’s assistant in this matter.
“Iran has always pursued its goals in Syria. The main thing is to legitimize the Assad regime. And without Russia’s diplomatic support, it is unlikely to succeed. And the political track of the Syrian settlement Tehran gives to Moscow. But this does not mean that the Iranians are ready to support the Russian authorities in everything. On the Syrian track, Russia and Iran are moving rather in a parallel direction. The level of cooperation cannot be called strategic,” said Orhan Ghafarli, an expert at the Center for Political Studies in Ankara, who believes that Iran is more interested in maintaining good relations with Turkey. Ankara is one of the few to maintain trade relations with Tehran under Western sanctions. Given the difficult domestic political situation after the parliamentary elections, the deteriorating economic situation, it is unlikely that Iran is interested in aggravating relations with a few partners – and Turkey above all. The parties will continue to avoid a sharp confrontation on the Syrian issue,” the expert believes.
All the analysts interviewed agreed that the fate of Idlib, as well as relations between Turkey, Russia, and Iran, will depend on the outcome of the talks between Putin and Erdogan. “Everyone is interested in resolving the situation in Idlib. What is at stake is not only the future of Syria but also the fate of bilateral relations within this triangle,” Gafarli said.