op-ed

Do Iran And Russia Want A Military Confrontation With The US Over Syria?

Ali Hajizade Founder, Editor-in-Chief of thegreatmiddleeast.com

Syria has been a bleeding wound of the Middle East since 2011. Iran and Russia are involved in the Syrian conflict on the side of Bashar Assad’s regime. Of course, each side has its own interest and operates accordingly. Perhaps, if Iran and Russia hadn’t intervened in the conflict, the fate of Bashar Assad would have been already sealed, but the intervention of Iran and Russia has changed the course of the conflict. Russian intervention, to be exact. Iran had been helping Bashar Assad’s regime for several years, before Russian intervention, but they were not able to turn the tide of war.

For Russia, which is already involved in the conflict in Ukraine, Syria has become a kind of a second front. Taking into account that Russia has serious financial and economic difficulties as a result of the fall in oil prices and international sanctions, one might think that Russia’s participation in the war in Syria and confrontation with US is pure madness. However, only those who are not familiar with the sentiment in the Russian society and Putin’s system can think this way.

The ostensible pretext of Russia’s emergence in Syria allegedly was fight against ISIS. However, Russian military paid more attention and used more resources in their struggle with opposition than with ISIS.

Russian participation in the Syrian war was accompanied by the frequent accusations of war crime.

The same can be said about Bashar Assad’s forces and their Iranian allies.

For the majority of Russian society, fueled by the state propaganda, the participation of Russia in the war in Syria, as well as the occupation of Crimea, is “a symbol of mightiness” and “a sign of Russia’s return of its positions in the world”.

Things are same in Iran, although there is less enthusiasm in Tehran. That is why besides geopolitical benefits, the Syrian war brings Moscow and Tehran also a domestic political effect. Playing on neo-imperial feelings of the society, they can divert attention from internal problems for a while. Tensions with US, during the war in Syria will only strengthen the image of the enemy in the face of US and will form the feeling of a “surrounded fortress”.

The statements of Cremlin’s propagandists on national television that “Russia can turn US into radioactive ash” and a recent story on the national television regarding the list of goods, which need to be taken to a bomb shelter in case of war with US are links in a chain of propaganda of pseudo-patriotic and anti-Western hysteria in the society.

However, you should not think that Russia and, especially, Iran want a military confrontation with US, no, they don’t, they can hardly cope with poorly equipped and trained Syrian rebels. They understand that a clash with the US army will end up a total collapse for them. Tehran and Moscow need a permanent tension not turning into an active military confrontation. Many in the West somehow miss this point.

Sometimes Iran, Russia and their allies cross the red line, in most cases they get away with it; sometimes the West (mostly under the pressure of the U.S.) imposes sanctions on them. One of the examples of crossing the line is the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The use of the chemical weapons in densely populated area is a part of the Syrian conflict. To avoid the use of chemical weapons in military activities, parties signed a deal in 2013, according to which Syrian chemical weapons must be taken out of the country and destroyed. Large quantities of chemical weapons were transported out, but, as the further chemical attacks demonstrated, not all chemical weapons were removed and the deal didn’t fully work.

After another chemical attack, the U.S. President blatantly expressed his indignation and promised that guilty will pay for it. Donald Trump didn’t remain silent and named those, who he thinks are responsible. The President went further and “promised Russia that American missiles will come”.

Earlier Moscow was happy with Trump’s statement regarding the withdrawal of the American military from Syria, calling it “Trump’s capitulation”, even Russian state news agency RiaNovosti “published a detailed analysis” which explains ”Trump’s failure”. This article has 350 thousand views.

When finally the promised attack was carried out Tehran and Moscow understood that US and its allies are serious. However, I am almost certain that chemical attacks will be resumed after a while. This is the nature of this war and forces involved in it.

Ali Hajizade is a political analyst and founder editor in chief of thegreatmiddleeast.com. He tweets @AHajizade.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.