Russian President Vladimir Putin was en route to Tehran for meetings with President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday. According to the Kremlin, “Syria-related issues will be on the agenda” for the bilateral talks.
Russia and Iran provided crucial support for the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and appear to have secured his continued power in Damascus, as the Islamic State crumbles and the Syrian civil war lurches toward a messy aftermath.
Russia’s Sputnik News quotes Iranian political analysts who say the priority issue for Putin, Rouhani, and Khamenei should be “joint opposition to U.S. intentions in the Middle East,” particularly America’s “expansionist policies in Syria and Iraq.” There is, of course, very little the U.S. government or populace wants to do less than “expand” into Syria; what the Iranians want to do is strategize with the Russians about keeping the U.S. from thwarting their expansionist plans.
“After all, it is the US that is currently pursuing an active policy of sanctions against our states, lobbied in the US Congress. In my opinion, such aggression on part of Washington against Tehran and Moscow shows that the US authorities want to weaken our countries,” Afife Abedi of the Scientific Center for Strategic Studies for Advisability of the Islamic Republic of Iran told Sputnik.
Radio Free Europe reports that Putin will “also hold trilateral talks with Rouhani and Azerbaijani President llham Aliyev during his working visit to Tehran.”
A similar trilateral meeting was held last year, during which transportation projects in the Caspian Sea were discussed, along with mutual security concerns such as the Islamic State.
“Energy cooperation” will also be on Putin’s to-do list, probably with an eye toward the reconstruction of Syria and the opportunities that could be presented for Russian and Iranian companies.
Billions of dollars for new construction in war-torn Syria will be on the table, most of them easy pickings for Russian and Iranian firms, since competition from most other nations is locked out. Russian companies are already conducting oil, gas, and mining projects in territory reclaimed from the Islamic State. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as a terrorist organization, is in on the action as well with lucrative deals to restore communications infrastructure and industrial facilities.
The reconstruction process in Syria will be used by the Assad regime as a means of consolidating power, as areas resistant to his rule are denied funding, while loyalists are richly rewarded. Russia and Iran will prove to be partners with few scruples about that kind of “healing process” for the tortured nation, no matter how loudly humanitarian organizations complain.