Following years of collaboration between Russia and Iran in propping the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad to remain in power, there have been signs recently of feuds between these two sides, according to the al-Quds al-Arabi daily. One of the latest of such indications are clashes reported between Syrian regime forces linked Moscow and those units enjoying the support of Iran’s regime.
Israel has immediately taken advantage of this situation and sided with Russia in order to establish a united front against Iran. Tensions have escalated in relations between Russia and Iran, especially following Iran-linked bases and groups being targeted in Syria by Israel with Moscow’s prior knowledge.
Around one week ago clashes erupted between a group of Syrian military forces associated to Iran and commanded by Maher Assad, the brother of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and the al-Nemr group, commanded by Suheil al-Hassan, a Syrian military commander affiliated to Russia.
“Russia and Iran are distancing from one another in Syria. Taking its place is strengthening relations and increasing tires between Russia and Israel, aiming to decrease Iran’s influence in Syria to the point of forcing Tehran out of this country,” according to the Deutsche Welle website.
According to this report, Israel will not accept a Shiite government on its borders. All the while, Russia considers Iran’s presence and influence in Syria as an element undermining its efforts to establish cease-fire across the Levant, and of course, its future interests in this strategic country.
Russian political expert Anton Mardasov wrote in analysis recently published in the Al Monitor website: “The controversy between Moscow and Tehran has always been a part of the Syrian conflict. However, the debates between the two have started to become more political in nature, influencing the future of Syria’s armed forces and other military entities.”
Moreover, RBC, a Russian economic newspaper, published an article two months ago reiterating the threat of Iran-backed groups gradually gaining strength in Syria, and this issue will become an obstacle before Russia’s goal of uniting the Syrian military under a unified leader.
Following disputes between Russia and Iran over the future of Syria, in the past few weeks sources have reported intense battles among a units linked to Russia and militia groups associated to Iran’s IRGC.
Turkey’s Anadulo news agency cited various sources saying, “Clashes resumed among the two parties in Hama Province, central Syria, following two days of cease fire as the feuding sides sought to gain control over property, routes and even the locals’ homes in the region. There is no information on the number of casualties in these clashes.”
The ongoing situation is literally a war between Russia and Iran to gain the upper hand over the Assad regime. Russia has no interest in Iran’s military and associated militia units being present in areas near the Syrian opposition forces. Moscow knows Tehran has thousands of mainly Afghan and Pakistani militias on the ground in Syria, and this goes against Russia’s long-term interests in Syria as Moscow seeks to come to terms with the U.S. over ending the war.
Recent reports indicate Moscow has put forward an agreement and forced both sides to sign with a goal to end the conflict between branches of Assad’s restructured military (loyal to Russia) and units under the command of Maher Assad.
Relations between Russia and Iran have soured recently as reports indicate Russia was informed of Israeli air strikes against Iran-backed targets in Syria beforehand and went as far as facilitating these raids. Various Iranian regime operatives are even accusing Syrian and Russian officials of providing precise and up to date information to Israel in order to target Iran-backed bases in Syria.
Moscow is also very concerned about reports of a recent car bombing in Damascus taking place near the Russian embassy being carried out by Iranian operatives.
Adding insult to injury for Iran’s interests in the Levant, on Thursday, the Russia al-Yawm news network reported citing a “number of sources” indicating Iran’s IRGC intends to evacuate its military support base located in Damascus International Airport, with plans to transfer the ordnance to another facility.
Israeli media are also reporting the IRGC gearing to transfer its military base and assets to the T4 airbase in Homs, central Syria. This site has been the target of at least two Israeli air strikes in February and March of 2018.
This report also adds that in the past few years, Iran has used a site in Damascus International Airport dubbed the “Glass House,” located only a few dozen meters away from the airport’s main facility.
Iranian opposition reports have previously described the “Glass House” as Tehran’s main command/intelligence center in Syria, and the site had been heavily protected and under highly restricted conditions. Reports also indicate the Glass House is home to a number of arms depots and two underground facilities.
Israel has recently escalated its attacks against Iran’s assets in Syria and unprecedentedly gone public about such measures. Furthermore, Iran is now concerned of pro-Tehran Shiite militia forces in Iraq being threatened in similar fashion as Israel has warned IRGC-linked groups in Iran will also be targeted as Tehran’s assets in Syria have experienced to this day.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conveyed a parallel message to Baghdad in his recent visit.