Russia’s scenario number one, the rebels win, the

Russia’s perspective:  The Winter of Iran’s Discontent

PETER KORZUN

 

The
wave of Iranian protests may be dying out but the angry people who had hit the
streets are still there and the feeling of discontent has not evaporated.  The slogans showed they meant business. With
little information coming out, it’s impossible to make any assessments. The
protesters appear to have no leaders and it’s hard to say if their actions were
organized.  Some people may welcome the
events, some may be reserved, adopting the wait and see attitude.

This
is an internal affair of Iran, of course, though, sympathies may differ. Unlike
the US, the EU, Israel or Saudi Arabia, Russia has not taken sides, calling on
other actors not to meddle. It’s really neutral. Iranian people are the ones to
decide what’s better for them.  The only
thing to do is to keep the fingers crossed hoping there will be no bloodshed.

It’s worth to consider nothing but sheer
facts in an unbiased way.   Some
consequences to impact the situation in the Middle East are unavoidable. No matter
how strong the Russia’s air force presence in Syria is, it cannot keep the
Assad’s government in power without boots on the ground.  Military cooperation between Russia and Iran
is crucial to keep the situation under control and prevent the resumption of
large-scale hostilities.  

According
to scenario number one, the rebels win, the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran is toppled
and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards formations are rapidly withdrawn from Syria.
Another scenario-the regime quells the rebellion, with a smoldering large-scale
conflict to last for a long time. The outcome is the same – the Revolutionary
Guards will have to leave Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and return home to protect
the government.  Iraq will inevitably
become less pro-Iranian and more pro-US. In any of these scenarios, Iranian
ground forces will withdraw from Syria and someone will have to fill the void.

This
turn of events is quite unexpected as everyone believed the Iran’s government
was stable. But you never know. After all, nobody expected the Iranians to oust
the U.S.-backed Shah Reza
Pahlavi in 1979.

So,
it’s highly probable that Russia will have to rush in more troops into Syria.
The action could be coordinated with Turkey. Diplomatic efforts, such as the
Russia’s “Syrian People’s Congress”
in Sochi, must be intensified
manifold. One should be realistic, with Iran gone, Persian Gulf monarchies and
their supports will come in.

It
does not necessarily mean intensification of combat actions. Russia has an
important advantage – it’s friendly with everyone. It can lead an international
coalition of pertinent actors. Iran’s reduced presence in Syria will not   automatically lead to resumption of
hostilities across the war-torn country. This scenario can be avoided. But the
increase of boots on the ground will top the agenda.  Nobody wants it, everyone tried to avert it
but one cannot ignore reality – it’s either more ground troops to support the
government of Assad or sliding back to where we were before Russia lent a
helping hand to Assad in September 2015.