Why Iran still doesn’t trust Russia on Syria

After the Khan Tuman incident, many Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) strategists who had previously welcomed the Russian military presence in Syria began to express doubt and worry about Moscow’s objectives in fighting alongside Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian forces. These strategists and others in Iran who oppose Russia’s military presence in Syria now argue that Moscow has no reason to pay a heavy price for only Tehran to reach its objectives, and so Russia must be pursuing its own objectives in Syria without informing Iran.

As such, the media landscape in Iran, previously one of complete trust regarding the Russian presence in Syria, suddenly became dominated by silence and deep skepticism. Political and military officials also started having doubts regarding Russia’s objectives in Syria. The administration of President Hassan Rouhani knows full well that the Syrian war has been very costly to Iran’s economy, and is therefore not interested in maintaining the status quo.

On the other hand, the most important strategic objective of Iran in Syria is keeping open the land-based arms-supply lines from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that are at present almost completely cut off. So far, leaving aside the human and political expenses, Tehran is on the whole estimated to have since 2011 spent $9 billion to $15 billion in Syria alone to achieve this goal. This is while Iranian officials are not 100% confident about Russia’s objectives — and also Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s (pictured) determination to fight for his stated objectives.

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