Russia, Iran Maneuver for Influence in Syria
Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Iranians want to be able to present themselves as the true victors of the conflict that has left almost half-a-million people dead and to reap geo-strategic and business benefits from their propping up of President Assad, according to analysts.
But behind-the-scenes maneuvering — as well as local reports of pro-Russia forces clashing in northern Syria with pro-Iran government militias — suggest tensions are growing.
A shake-up last month in the upper ranks of Syria’s state security agencies is being explained by some diplomats as the result of Russian pressure aimed at weakening President Assad’s brother, Maher, who is considered pro-Iranian.
In mid-April, at least a dozen fatalities were reported as a result of firefights breaking out between Russian forces and pro-Iranian militias in the northeastern city of Aleppo. The clashes reportedly broke out near a market in the city’s Khaldiya neighborhood and quickly escalated.
Pro-Tehran militias have accused Moscow of coordinating with Tel Aviv on recent Israeli airstrikes on Iranian military targets in Syria. Their complaints are echoed in the Iranian media.
Earlier this year, after meeting Russia’s Putin in Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Russian leader is anxious to reduce the Iranian military presence in Syria. He said most of their discussions had focused on Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Israeli officials later told reporters that Putin hadn’t placed any limitations on Israel’s targeting of Iranian military units in Syria or of Tehran’s ally, Hezbollah, the radical Lebanese Shi’ite militia. Israeli air raids have been mounted with increasing frequency in recent years.
Read more at VOA News
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