Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu visited Syria and met there with president Bashar Assad. This was done on the direct instructions of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a special message which Shoygu and had to convey to Assad.
Well, this meeting could be called nothing unremarkable, except perhaps it’s surprising that Shoigu acted as a courier, as well as an ordinary meeting of a Russian military official with the head of our allied state, in which our people are fighting to restore legitimate authority.
However, if you pay attention to the topics that were discussed even in an open mode, it seems that Putin’s message brought to Shoigu is in fact something of a warning. For example, our Minister of Defense recalled that it was the Russian Federation that was able to crush the main terrorist groups that threatened the local regime. And this, together with joint efforts, helped preserve Syria as a state. In response, Assad only had to nod and agree with everything. But in general, he said what he always said all the time when he met with some regular Russian official — things are going well, and Syria has a strong alliance with Russia.
Oddly enough, for this kind of reminders, the Minister of Defense himself arrived in Syria, not someone of a lower rank. Probably, Assad really wanted to strictly recall the role of Russia in his life and in the life of the whole of Syria, but at the same time he showed respect. Was he a lower level official, the Syrian president could easily be offended. But on the other hand, Putin did not do it personally, but his subordinate, which, as it were, underscores the higher status of the head of the Russian Federation – they say, do not forget who is in charge here.
In addition, this is supported by the fact that shortly before the talks, a meeting was held between the chiefs of staff of Iran and Iraq in Damascus with the Minister of Defense of Syria. Russia was not represented here, and this probably indicates that Tehran is trying to demonstrate its independence from Moscow on the issue of expanding influence in the Middle East. That is, Iran partly perceives the Russian Federation as a competitor, and does not want to be in the role of “younger brother”.
Russian political scientist and orientalist Oleg Gushchin believes that this behavior is just a manifestation of the struggle of the two countries for influence over Syria. At the same time, the expert focuses on the factor of Israel – the other day Benjamin Netanyahu directly addressed Iran with threats to strike if the Persians continue to increase influence in Syria. And this, Guschin believes, among other things was the reason for sending Shoigu to Syria.
- What is happening is most likely an increase in the confrontation between Moscow and Tehran. The fact that Russia was not present at the meeting was the head of the Iranian General Staff, Iraq and the Syrian Defense Minister is not surprising. So Moscow did not need it. The case is probably as follows. Shoygu arrived in Damascus, met with Assad and told him our position. But now Assad will have to bring this position to the Persians.
– What is this position?
– It is pretty simple. We need to contain Iran, to reduce its military presence in Syria. The fact is that Russia needs to maintain good relations with Iran and with Israel. To achieve something from Tel Aviv, we now need to influence the Iranians. But if Putin or Shoygu did it directly, there would be certain problems with the Persians. They would regard it as if Israel is a priority for Moscow. Therefore, it is much better to attract Syrians in this matter. Let them with Iran and understand. This is easier for them, especially since the Iranians have said many times that they are ready to withdraw their forces immediately after the local authorities ask them to do so.
– Considering how much time and effort Iran spent on Syria, is this really real?
- In fact, the withdrawal of troops is not the main problem. This, in principle, is not so difficult to do.
But if the Persians leave, they will probably stop investing huge amounts of money in Syria, which they have been investing all this time. Neither Russia nor Turkey will invest so much. So we do not need it. But there is another option to meet certain requests of Tehran. Economically, you can make this conclusion profitable for them.
– For example, it is known that this fall Damascus will transfer to the Iranians a container port in Lattakia.
- The port is not so bad anymore. But Tehran’s cherished dream is to build a pipeline to the Mediterranean. This would seriously expand their capabilities in the process of transporting energy to Europe. Here, however, still need to push the pipe through Iraq, which is also very difficult task.
– Maybe that’s why the meeting in Damascus was also attended by the head of the General Staff of Iraq, Usman al-Ghanimi?
- Maybe it would be better if there was some deputy finance minister instead, for example. However, it is acceptable for a belligerent Iraq to send a military official to solve the economic tasks. But this is a matter of the future. In the near future, we need to achieve the withdrawal of Persians. This will lead to the fact that Syria will no longer be disturbed by Israeli aircraft, and we can finally seriously talk about the transition of the SAR to a peaceful state. By the way, with the departure of the Iranians, the likelihood of a sharp decline in American interest in Syria is high. For them, whatever one may say, the Persians are really a threat, because the Persians are a threat to Israel. And this, as we know, is almost the same thing.