Foreign ministers of Iran, Syria and Russia warned the United States against further military strikes in Syria and reiterated support for the government of Bashar al-Assad in a trilateral meeting in Moscow on Friday, the Iranian media reports. According to Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), the alliance discussed ways to coordinate policies between the three countries following the U.S. missile strikes in Syria last week. The allies condemned the strikes, rejected allegations of a chemical attack by Damascus, and called for an independent investigation in to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. They also called for a political solution to end Syria’s six-year conflict.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran has been a victim of chemical attacks in the past and “today this excuse is used against Syria.” He also warned the United States and its allies of consequences of taking a military action in Syria in the future. “The results of unilateral actions in the past decade show they have caused a lot of trouble in the region,” Zarif was quoted as saying by the state-run Iranian media.
Comment: On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to part ways with Damascus and Tehran and help find a political solution to the Syrian civil war, which has killed half a million people in the past six years. But today’s meeting in Moscow and statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov indicate that the Russian government is unwilling to change course.
But even if Moscow relents under international pressure and cooperates with the international community to end the Syrian war, Iran, which dominates ground realities in Syria, is unlikely to oblige. The Kremlin appears to favor a political settlement that would not jeopardize its strategic interests in Syria. For Iran, however, the survival of the Assad regime is a red line. Although Russia and Iran have cooperated closely in Syria in the past two years, Iran and its proxies have repeatedly undermined Russia-sponsored ceasefires and peace talks in recent months. For now, Iran is trying to exploit the heightening tension between Moscow and Washington to seek further Russian military help to consolidate recent territorial gains in Syria and further weaken anti-Assad rebel groups across the country.