Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hailed the latest military gains by the Syrian army and its allies and reiterated Tehran’s continued support to Damascus in a telephone conversation with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad earlier today. The Iranian president also condemned the latest U.S. strikes against pro-Damascus forces in southeastern Syria as a violation of international law. “These actions prove that Americans’ claims about fighting terrorism is hollow and unrealistic,” state-run (I.R.N.A.) quoted Rouhani as saying. The Iranian president assured his Syrian counterpart that Tehran’s Syria policy will not change during his second term in office. “The government and people of Iran will remain on the side of the Syrian people until the ultimate victory is achieved,” he told Assad.
The Syrian president condemned this week’s terror attacks in Tehran and said he was confident the tragedy would not weaken the Islamic Republic’s resolve to fight global terrorism. “No doubt, the Iranian nation will not be pressured by these actions and will take an even firmer stance against terrorism and violence.” Rouhani agreed and emphasized that “the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria are today in the same front against terrorism and the two countries’ brotherly and close relationship will be stronger than ever in the past.”
Comment: Rouhani’s remarks show that the Iranian president is unlikely to take any bold measures during his second term to alter Tehran’s destabilizing role in Syria or curtail the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ (I.R.G.C.) involvement in the Syrian conflict, which has killed almost half a million people and forced millions of Syrians to leave the country in the past six years. During his first term, Rouhani’s main focus was to revive Iran’s economy and he had largely delegated the country’s policies in regional conflict zones to the I.R.G.C. His second term appears to be not much different despite the fact a vast majority of Iranians now oppose the I.R.G.C.’s costly military adventurism abroad at the expense of domestic priorities at home.
The I.R.G.C. and Iranian hardliners also appear to be exploiting the Tehran attacks to justify Iran’s military role in Syria and Iraq by arguing that Iran has to fight terrorism on foreign lands in order to prevent the threat from spilling over into the Iranian territory. Even if Rouhani is committed to improving Tehran’s relations with regional Arab nations and the United States, the Tehran attacks will make his job more difficult as hardliners are holding Washington and Riyadh responsible for this week's attacks in Tehran and call for revenge.