Is Iran and Russia’s Ad Hoc Alliance in Syria Unraveling?

Is Iran and Russia’s Ad Hoc Alliance in Syria Unraveling?
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, left, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, pose for a photo before a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

Now that the tide in the Syrian civil war appears to have definitely turned in favor of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, one of the key factors that will shape Syria’s future is the precise nature and durability of the relationship between the two countries that saved Assad from collapse: Iran and Russia.

Tehran and Moscow worked together to bolster Assad, but the character of their ad hoc alliance has always remained a bit of a mystery. They each, for their own purposes, wanted the regime in Damascus to survive. Beyond that, it has never been clear just how committed Russian President Vladimir Putin has been to his links with the Islamic Republic.

Recent developments, particularly regarding Israel’s concerns about Iran, have started casting some light on that question, revealing an outline of Putin’s position that is causing alarm in Tehran. Iran and Russia are already diverging. And now there are reports that Moscow has more unpleasant surprises in store for Iran.

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