Russia’s perspective: The Winter of Iran’s DiscontentPETER KORZUN Thewave of Iranian protests may be dying out but the angry people who had hit thestreets are still there and the feeling of discontent has not evaporated. The slogans showed they meant business.
Withlittle information coming out, it’s impossible to make any assessments. Theprotesters appear to have no leaders and it’s hard to say if their actions wereorganized. Some people may welcome theevents, some may be reserved, adopting the wait and see attitude. Thisis an internal affair of Iran, of course, though, sympathies may differ. Unlikethe US, the EU, Israel or Saudi Arabia, Russia has not taken sides, calling onother actors not to meddle.
It’s really neutral. Iranian people are the ones todecide what’s better for them. The onlything to do is to keep the fingers crossed hoping there will be no bloodshed. It’s worth to consider nothing but sheerfacts in an unbiased way. Someconsequences to impact the situation in the Middle East are unavoidable. No matterhow strong the Russia’s air force presence in Syria is, it cannot keep theAssad’s government in power without boots on the ground. Military cooperation between Russia and Iranis crucial to keep the situation under control and prevent the resumption oflarge-scale hostilities. Accordingto scenario number one, the rebels win, the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran is toppledand the Iranian Revolutionary Guards formations are rapidly withdrawn from Syria.
Another scenario-the regime quells the rebellion, with a smoldering large-scaleconflict to last for a long time. The outcome is the same – the RevolutionaryGuards will have to leave Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and return home to protectthe government. Iraq will inevitablybecome less pro-Iranian and more pro-US. In any of these scenarios, Iranianground forces will withdraw from Syria and someone will have to fill the void. Thisturn of events is quite unexpected as everyone believed the Iran’s governmentwas stable. But you never know.
After all, nobody expected the Iranians to oustthe U.S.-backed Shah RezaPahlavi 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 theRussia’s “Syrian People’s Congress”in Sochi, must be intensifiedmanifold.
One should be realistic, with Iran gone, Persian Gulf monarchies andtheir supports will come in. Itdoes not necessarily mean intensification of combat actions. Russia has animportant advantage – it’s friendly with everyone. It can lead an internationalcoalition of pertinent actors. Iran’s reduced presence in Syria will not automatically lead to resumption ofhostilities across the war-torn country. This scenario can be avoided.
But theincrease of boots on the ground will top the agenda. Nobody wants it, everyone tried to avert itbut one cannot ignore reality – it’s either more ground troops to support thegovernment of Assad or sliding back to where we were before Russia lent ahelping hand to Assad in September 2015.