Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s allies Moscow and Tehran disagree on solutions to the Syrian war, Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded on Thursday, days after deadly infighting between regime forces loyal to Russia and Iran erupted, threatening to break the pro-Damascus alliance.
Support from Iran and Russia has allowed the murderous Assad to remain in power and capture more territory than any other warring party in Syria, including the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds and Turkey-allied rebels.
Despite coordination between Iran and Russia on behalf of Assad, Putin declared, ”We are working very closely on the settlement of the Syrian problem, but not all issues have been resolved, there is a lot to talk about,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.
Putin met with his Iranian counterpart President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of a trilateral summit featuring the leaders of Turkey, Russia, and Iran in the Russian coastal city of Sochi.
As the war in Syria winds down, potential cracks in the pro-Assad coalition have come to light as Russia and Iran compete for influence over the regime and its territory.
Only one rebel stronghold remains, in the Syrian province of Idlib held by an al Qaeda-linked group, which now controls more territory than any other opposition or terrorist group. Despite being on opposite sides of the conflict, Assad’s ally Moscow is working with pro-opposition Ankara to push the jihadis and their weapons out of Idlib, which borders Turkey.
The U.S.-led coalition has squeezed the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) into an ever-shrinking pocket of land in northern Syria, near the border with Iraq.
On Friday, Ahram Online reported that Russia is trying to undercut Iran’s military role in Syria, adding that Moscow has already forced members of Tehran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah to vacate certain areas.
Ahram revealed that Russian-backed fighters within the Syrian military have engaged in deadly battles with Iranian-allied regime soldiers in recent days.
The Jerusalem Post, citing the Iraqi Kurdish media outlet Bas News, added that the Russian military recently “blew up” targets held by Iranian militias, marking “the first time the Russians attacked Iranian targets in Syria.”
“Military disagreements are erupting between Russia and Iran in Syria, including indirect clashes that could mark the end of their tactical alliance,” Ahram noted, adding:
Battles have broken out using heavy weapons between Russian-backed militias and Iranian-backed groups in Syria amid disputes over areas of influence, with fighters on both sides being killed in battles.
Russia has been providing air support to Iranian-backed Shiite militants loyal to Assad, including the Hezbollah terrorist group, since September 2015.
Ahmed Rahal, a military analyst, told Ahram, “Russia is confronting Iran in Syria for two reasons. First, there is the Israeli-US pressure and the insistence that Iran has no place in Syria. Second, there is the fact that Russia does not now need Iran since the fighting in Syria is almost over.”
The United States considers state-sponsor of terror Iran to one of the top threats against American interests in the Middle East.