Iran’s role in Syria is one of the topics discussed during a meeting in Geneva of top security advisors from the United States and Russia. This is an anticipated follow-up meeting to the one in Helsinki last month.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nickolai Patrushev, focused on several topics key to the Syrian conflict, including Iran’s role in the country. Russia backed Assad, while the U.S. appears to have supported the rebels, although they were in the country to fight ISIS troops.
Iran backs Assad’s government
In the Syrian conflict, which is now over 7 years old, Iran and Russia have played a pivotal role in helping Assad’s government to remain in power. The large number of rebel groups in Syria has made it difficult to come to a peace agreement. Additionally, Assad’s government has been accused of using chemical weapons on the Syrian people in rebel controlled territory.
Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed, the Iranian regime has used its financial influx to increase its military operations throughout the region. These include efforts to assist the Assad regime, while also creating a highway of controlled territory for Iran. Now these talks appear to be focused on how to address Iran’s continuing role in the country.
One of the areas of concern is the amount of territory that now is controlled by Iran within Syria’s borders. Additionally, there are concerns about the Hezbollah troops under the orders of the Iranian forces, notably the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Bolton and Trump administration critical of Iran
What complicates these discussions is the fact that Iran is a primary target of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May and in naming John Bolton his national security advisor, he now has a advisor who sees Iran as a terrorist state and willing to take a hard-line with the regime.
While the U.S. claims to not want to force regime change, their support of the protests of the Iranian people and increasing financial sanctions, there seems to be another motive. Iran is also struggling economically, yet continues to fund Hezbollah. In fact, a meeting between the two groups seems to indicate that Iran is not likely to quietly pack up and leave Syria, no matter what agreements Russia and the U.S. make.