On December 19, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the Syrian conflict in a phone call. According to the Iranian media, the two leaders discussed ways to coordinate war efforts in Syria.
The Iranian president reportedly urged that Tehran and Moscow continue supporting the embattled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. “It is very important that the Syrian people feel that they are not alone in the fight against terrorists,” Fars News Agency, a mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), quoted Rouhani as telling Putin.
But the official website of the Russian president reported that the main theme of the two leaders' conversation was “the need for joint efforts to facilitate the launch of a real political process to bring about a swift resolution of the conflict in Syria.”
Over the past years, Moscow and Tehran have cooperated closely to ensure the survival of the Baathist dictatorship in Damascus at the expense of immense human suffering and Syria’s destruction. But the two countries now appear to be advocating divergent courses of action to end the Syrian conflict.
Statements by Iranian officials and the IRGC’s actions on the ground in Syria suggest that the survival of the Assad regime remains a “red line” for Tehran. And the IRGC and its affiliated Shiite militant groups are determined to militarily prevail over and dismantle all rebel groups.
But Moscow seems to be trying to explore ways to extricate itself from the Syrian quagmire and is apparently open to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis. The breach of an evacuation deal brokered by Russia and Turkey in Aleppo last week by the Iranian-run militia forces was another indication that the two countries' long-term policies in Syria might be on a collision course.