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Assad Allies Iran, Russia Consider Syria Options

Iran and Russia can be expected to work closely to protect their mutual ally, analysts say, but to what extent would they react to U.S. military action in Syria?
Iran and Russia can be expected to work closely to protect their mutual ally, analysts say, but to what extent would they react to U.S. military action in Syria?
By Robert Coalson and Golnaz Esfandiari
A U.S.-led military intervention in Syria would put Washington on a collision course with two unwavering allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- Iran and Russia.

Just how Tehran and Moscow might react is a key part of the calculus that U.S. President Barack Obama must consider in weighing his course of action in Syria.

Although analysts agree that neither country is likely to respond with direct military support for Assad, they also don't expect Tehran or Moscow to sit back passively. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that an attack against Assad is a "red line" that would trigger a response, although it has not said what that response might be.

Iran's reaction to date has been mild, with Tehran condemning both the use of chemical weapons and threats of foreign military intervention.

According to Will Fulton, an Iran analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the IRGC would likely not risk a direct confrontation with the United States but could act through proxies, including Hizballah in Lebanon or Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

Tehran would also seek to capitalize on anti-U.S. reaction at home and across the region. "I think we will absolutely see more condemnations, more warnings from IRGC and hard-line officials, and this will of course play into, especially, the IRGC's narrative that the conflict in Syria is a conspiracy of Israel and the West," Fulton says. "So they will use this attack to fuel that narrative and it will become a recruiting tool and a narrative defense of their own foreign interference in Syria."

Proportional Response

Dina Esfandiary, a research associate at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, believes Tehran would prefer to limit its role in Syria, in part because Iran was itself a victim of chemical weapons during the 1980s war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"If the U.S. and its allies are able to limit their air strikes and target only a few targets in Syria, I think that it's likely that Iran might react," Esfandiary says, "but they will really, really limit the extent of their reaction because as a country that has felt the impact of chemical weapons itself, it's very difficult for them to go against action against chemical-weapons use."

In any event, a strike on Syria would dim hopes that Iranian President Hassan Rohani's election last month could lead to improved relations between Tehran and Washington. Rohani, who has pledged to improve relations with the West, could instead turn increasingly to longtime ally Russia.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards can be expected to use U.S. intervention as a recruiting tool, one analyst says.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards can be expected to use U.S. intervention as a recruiting tool, one analyst says.


In a telephone call initiated by Iran on August 28, Rohani discussed the Syrian crisis with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The two presidents denounced the use of chemical weapons by "anyone," according to a Kremlin press statement, and called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis "exclusively through political and diplomatic means."

Russian President Putin is expected to have his first face-to-face meeting with Rohani on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan in mid-September.

Bringing Tehran, Moscow Closer

Iran and Russia can be expected to work closely to protect their mutual ally, says Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington. "It is not clear to what extent the Russians and the Iranians are coordinating their support for Syria," he says. "But to the extent that they are, a strike on [Syria] would almost inevitably push Tehran and Moscow closer together to ensure that the Assad government does not fall."

SYRIA: A Timeline Of Tragedy

Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the Naval War College in Washington, agrees. He argues that Moscow could ultimately respond to a strike against Syria by undoing years of Western policy to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program. "The longer-term prospect for the United States, maybe, is that Russia begins to weaken the international sanctions regime on Iran or begins to try to reintegrate Iran back into the family of nations in defiance of U.S. preferences that sanctions be tightened on Tehran," he says.

Gvosdev adds that Moscow could also respond to a strike against Syria by stepping up its direct provision of military aid to Damascus or by providing intelligence to mitigate the impact of an outside intervention.

On the other hand, Russia could see benefits in the United States becoming embroiled in another conflict in the Middle East. Such a scenario could allow Moscow to pursue its primary foreign-policy goal of reintegrating the former Soviet space through Putin's proposed Eurasian Union.

"If the United States becomes involved in a prolonged effort in Syria, beyond just a few military strikes at the beginning, but gets drawn into policing Syria, having to do more to prevent the use of chemical weapons, becoming involved in trying to stabilize the situation on the ground -- that means there will be a lot less attention paid to what goes on in the former Soviet space," Gvosdev explains.

U.S.-Russian relations -- already at low ebb in recent weeks, most notably over Moscow's granting of temporary asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden -- would certainly suffer as a result of a Western strike on Syria.

Russia could slow down or suspend the Northern Distribution Network that NATO uses to help supply forces in Afghanistan. Such a move could make things more difficult for NATO as its deadline for withdrawing combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 approaches.

"As we know, there are pits that you can fall into forever," says Aleksandr Golts, a military analyst and journalist based in Moscow. "Just recently it seemed that relations between Moscow and Washington had reached their nadir, but then came the Snowden affair and we understood that it is always possible to fall a little further."

RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Andrei Shary contributed to this report

Question image

Quiz: Syria, Its Friends, And Enemies

Who's tight with Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad -- and why?

Robert Coalson

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 30, 2013 11:50
Congratulations to the people of GREAT Britain!!! Finally their Parliament decided to represent the views of those who elected it - the people of Britain, and not the interests of the US military industrial complex and of the Israeli lobby!!!
And the US within this context looks like what it is: a rogue state, whose agressive, absurd, suicidal and self-destructive policies are opposed even by their own closest allies, such as the UK.
Now it is the turn of the people of FRANCE to go to the streets of the French cities and to demand their own govt to hold a parliamentary vote in the French National Assembly in order for the Parliament to decide on whether France should or should not participate in this suicidal war that the people of Europe have no desire to get engaged into.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 30, 2013 21:00
I agree
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
September 03, 2013 18:40
Know this. If the Congress of the United States declares NO to war efforts it Syria and Obama goes forth anyway, I think many Americans will need to take a close look at overthrowing our Government like our Constitution tells us we should the second the will of the people becomes no longer the Governments priority. Nobody in America wants us in anymore conflicts. We are tired of being Demonized and tired of being broke. Let someone else police the world.

by: Ariely Shein from: Jerusalem
August 30, 2013 16:51
Experience is a great teacher.
_
* Ahead of WW2 German army has been trained and rearmed in USSR .Later to attack the USSR.

*If German Nazi (DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED) party was outlawed because their ideology in 1934--50 million lives saved.

**
The lesson: outlaw dangerous ideologies or stop then as soon as they control a country>
The lesson for Russia:
Helping doctrines wishing to destroy your culture have never stopped that to try to implement it latter:
!!! World leaders- stop the Shia Islamist Iran and the Suni equivalent Muslim brotherhood theocrats (mother of terrorism).!!!
--
Islamist Iran ideology:
Iranian leader's declaration&documents
*The Final Armageddon war between Iran Islamist and the world will be soon
*The war result will be the worldwide enforcement of Shia type Islamic mighty caliphate.
*End of democracy and liberalism
*Denying human rights and woman equality.
*Main terror supporter.
*USA is the big satin.
--
Muslim brotherhood:
* The beginnings of all of the religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the MB ideology"--Kuweit Minister, Al-Ruba
*“Their work in America is a grand Jihad in,destroying Western civilization from within"
Federal court documents on the trial of the Holy Land Foundation of the MB
*A Muslim can come closer to Allah by jihad against all non-Muslims, in every possible manner"--Ahmad 'Abd MB leader
*the mastermind of the 9/11 was Khalid Muhammad a MB member
* Ben Laden was a Muslim martyr" MB leaders
--
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me !

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 31, 2013 07:27
French media is reporting that 64 % of the population of France is opposed to their country's participation in the new suicidal military adventure of the US military-industrial complex in Syria.
The US is really starting this war from a VERY disadvantageous position: its major ally - the UK - has reject any idea of participating, and in the only remaining ally - France - the majority of the population is against this war as well.
Source: http://www.leparisien.fr/politique/syrie-64-des-francais-contre-une-intervention-francaise-30-08-2013-3093841.php

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 31, 2013 18:11
Aha, George W Obama spoke again and it turns outs that he wants to send the ball to the US Congress - which is supposed to reconvene on September 9th - in more than a week!!! And given that 60 % of the US population is opposed to any participation of the US in this war, is it maybe a way of making the Congress responsible for this VERY unpopular decision OR making the Congress adopt - like the British Parliament did - a dicision NOT TO get into a war???
In this latter case, George W Obama is actually going to kill two rabbits with one shot: on the one hand, he will show to the public opinion that he is just so damn tough that he was that close to getting into a war in Syria BUT, on the other, the Congress did let him, and he - as a damn comitted democrat - decided to respect the decision of the Congress and not to get into a war.
Well, should this really be his calculation, one has to admit that it is a very smart move on his part :-)))).

by: khalid from: Islamabad
September 02, 2013 07:09

The crises in Syria has been created by US /West /Israel and the puppets states of the Gulf including Saudis ( stooges ) have killed thousands of innocent people . These countries wanted a sole country in the middle east to stand against their evil designs of creating a greater Israel , to deprive Iran of his stead fast friend in the middle east and Hizbulla .
They are not ashamed of them self when they invaded Iran on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, and they are repeating the same story in Syria this time " chemical weapons "
If at all the chemical weapons have been used then the it must be Israel or the west /US . Millions have been killed in Iraq and now they want the same to happen in Syria .
western treachery is well know and this is the crux of everything .
In Response

by: SteveT from: England
September 03, 2013 13:52
interesting views all round...... What a mess
History is great for two things
Navel gazing
and
Learning from.
It appears that we are all good at the first bit, but crap at the second bit, no matter which side you of the fence you sit on.
Several facts are key here:
1)Assad has everything to loose here, and the only way in which he would consider leaving power is in a box.... it will be very bloody right to the very bitter end.
2) If for example Texas rose up and revolted in the cause of independence and revolution, how would the US government react, OK quite likely not with chemical weapons, but a good question non the less. Just the same way in which Russia did in Georgia, and the surrounding areas...?
3) If Iran and Russia were not supplying arms etc to Syria, then someone else would be FACT..... The Chinese.... etc
4) Israel cannot be dug up and moved to Texas, would be nice in the interests of peace, but it is not going to happen.. deal with it and stop trying to kill each other over greed and money.. oh and politics
5) The UN is a complete and utter waste of space... in this particular theatre at least, and many others
I totally agree with the statements about chemical weapons used against Iran in their 8 Years of slugging it out with Saddam .. yet another bloodbath.. and who reacted then, and who actually gained anything in the final outcome.

I do not get why the Russian's and the USA cannot sort this out, this paranoid view with which each treats the other, really is School playground politics, of the worst and most dangerous kind, and for what. They have so much to gain from being able to deal with this. Remember the USA is not the only country in the world with terrorist threats / problems. Russia has them as well.

The west MUST stop trying to be the self appointed world police, accept others for what they are and what they believe. Work together in order to gain a multicultural , multi religious co-operating world. As in GROW UP.
Frankly there is no right and no wrong religion, only thing is that so many miss-appropriate it, and fight for political, financial, material or moral gain under the banner of a given religion against another. A Shame ..... it really is.

Jeez we can put man on the moon, send vehicles to mars and beyond , cure how many diseases, travel across the world at the speed of sound and cannot sort out a mess like this...... HOW JUVENILE IS THAT
Being a project engineer, if I behaved like most of the political personalities in the world today, I would not get my next job, and would be out of work for a very long time.
Fair Common sense must allowed to prevail, not the vested interests.
Well that's my "two penneth" as they over here

My Solution:
Book a large room round table and chairs to seat; Obama, Putin, Assad, the leader of the opposition, the president of Iran, the PM of Israel and other relevant leaders, get them seated and leave the room locking the door behind you. Give them two hours to come to an agreement, walk back into the room after two hours and if no agreement is reached, pick a name from a hat and lay that persons right hand flat on the table in front of all the other delegates, and using a builders lump hammer break his knuckle on his or her middle finger ( removing the victims name from the hat ) Repeat until an agreement is reached... how long do think it would take to sort out this mess then, not long I suspect, and at what cost: the price of the room and I would guess no more than three smashed finger knuckles. A small price.
At least millions of innocents would not then be mutilated, gassed, shot in the back, or loose their families and loved ones or their very lives.

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