Recap: With Russia Busy in Ukraine, Iran Moves in Syria

The War in Ukraine is occupying all the headlines. Seen as the downfall of the European state system, its repercussions are believed to be mostly focused inside the old continent. However, the repercussions of the Russian war extend to Syria as well through many channels. Among these, it provides a perfect opportunity for Iran, Russia’s partner, to gain some ground in the country.

In fact, throughout the week, several meetings took place. The heads of the secret services in Iran and Syria met to discuss cooperation between the two bodies, according to the pro-government al-Watan. During a visit to Tehran, Syria’s top intelligence official, Ali Mamlouk, head of the National Security Bureau, met with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary, Ali Shamkhani, and discussed recent developments on the international scene and their implications for the region. The talks focused on cooperation between Syria and Iran in the fight against terrorism and countering U.S. efforts to recycle and revive terrorist organizations in Syria by training them and supplying them with weapons.

The next day, officials from Iran and Syria met in Damascus and Tehran to discuss cooperation, according to the official agency SANA. While President Bashar al-Assad received the Senior Aide of the Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Asghar Khaji, and the accompanying delegation to discuss bilateral relations, the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi received Major General Ali Mamlouk to discuss the fight against terrorism.

The official Iranian Tasneem news agency has reported that during this visit to Syria, Khaji discussed the ways to promote cooperation between Tehran and Damascus in various fields with Faisal al-Mekdad. Khaji underlined that Iran will support the government and people of Syria and that the policy of isolating Syria has failed.

And in fact, the opposition website Zaman al-Wasl said that Iran supplied its Syrian proxies with “quality weapons”, reportedly to fight the Islamic State.

These meetings come amid reports that Israel’s pro-Ukrainian position will impact its cooperation with Iran in Syria. The pro-government al-Watan said that Moscow is expected to upset its understandings with Israel on what it called “Iranian positioning”. Israel fears that Russia will unleash Iran to transfer whatever weapons it wants to Syria, and give it the freedom to move in all regions of the country. Nevertheless, the Iran International news website reported that Israel launched several missiles from the Golan Heights at targets around Damascus, causing several casualties and material damage. The attack targeted posts and weapons warehouses of Iran-backed militias in the vicinity of Damascus international airport.

Meanwhile, the Turkish news website TRT has published that a new era of competition in Syria was ahead. The website claims that the regional interests and the success of counterterrorism operations by Turkey will depend on limiting Iran. Therefore, recent Turkish counterintelligence operations against Iranian cells in Türkiye could be just the beginning of a new era of Turkish-Iranian competition and regional alliances, that will probably expand to Syria in addition to the existing Turkey-Russia dynamic.

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