Tehran’s unwavering support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad continues to irk the Turks, according to press reports. On December 16, the Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, and Iran’s vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, spoke on the phone. The discussion was ostensibly about Jahangiri’s upcoming visit to Turkey, but also focused on the Syrian civil war. Earlier, the Iranian embassy in Ankara issued a statement rejecting what it called “false reports” about the Iranian role in Syria and made the point that any “diplomatic contact” between Iran and Turkey is “aimed to help the Syrian people.”
Recent reports in Iranian and foreign media revealed that Tehran and Ankara held secret talks about the fate of the Syrian civil war on two occasions in 2013 and again in 2016. The reports embarrassed the Iranian state. On each occasion, the talks broke down over Tehran's inflexible commitment to Assad's political survival. The failure of the Turkish-Iranian contacts underlines once again that Iran’s deadly intervention in Syria is driven purely by its determination to maintain or expand its regional influence, blind to the suffering of the Syrian people.