Moscow's Track Record in Syria Suggests It Is Unable and Unwilling to Keep Iran Out

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Anna Borshchevskaya - This month, Jerusalem will host a meeting between U.S. national security advisor John Bolton, Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and Israeli national security advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat. Analysts expect the talks to focus on Syria and Iran. The string of broken ceasefires that have occurred on Russia's watch instill little confidence that Moscow will honor new agreements in Syria. In July 2018, Moscow promised that Iran would withdraw its forces and proxies at least 85 km. away from Israel's border. Yet many Iran-allied militia elements remained near the frontier, reportedly switching into Syrian military uniforms in an apparent effort to avoid Israeli airstrikes. The resultant withdrawal was superficial at best and ultimately failed to diminish Iran's presence. Even if Moscow wanted to push Iran out, it seems unable to do so. Diplomacy alone would not do the trick, and using military force is unfeasible. Russia may rule Syria's skies, but Iran holds a stronger position on the ground. It is difficult to imagine Putin would use his military to dismantle Iranian and Hizbullah weapons infrastructure. Nor is it clear that Moscow can limit the forces Tehran deploys in Syria. Above all, Moscow does not want Iran to turn pro-Western, and Tehran shares the Kremlin's broad strategic goal of reducing American influence in the region. The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.

2019-06-14 00:00:00

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