The Secretary of the Supreme national security Council of Iran said: “the Coalition, Iran, Russia, Syria, Iraq, and the Lebanese movement “Hezbollah” was able to change the balance of power, long established on the Syrian front. The terrorists were replaced by a steady attack on the retreat. In addition, finally the freed Aleppo”.
The Secretary of security Council of Iran Ali Shamkhani in an interview with the “Foundation for the study of Iran and Eurasia” (IRAS) spoke about the political evolution of the region, putting special emphasis on the situation in Syria, and on Russian-Iranian cooperation on Syria and negotiations in the framework of “Astana.”
Below is a detailed retelling of this conversation.
— Iran and Russia in the last two years and especially after the lifting of sanctions (against Iran — approx. transl.) go to the next stage of interaction in military-technical sphere. What do you think, did the cooperation between Iran and Russia in this field to extend beyond the normal relations “seller-buyer” and really get close to that level of interaction, which we have called strategic?
— Actually buying and selling weapons is only one aspect of cooperation that we see between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the defense sphere. In our opinion, it began to acquire a “strategic look” at the time when Russia is seriously and effectively begin to act on the Syrian stage as a force counteracting terrorism. Even then began to form partnerships in the field of defence and military sphere, which takes into account the interests of both countries.
The strategic nature means cooperation at the highest level between leaders of the two countries as well as at the military level. It’s meetings and contacts at the level of chiefs of staff of the armed forces, the national security Council and defense Ministers of the two States. In addition, there is in the field of joint military operations.
Unlike some countries in the region, which are the only buyers of American weapons, Iran chooses itself the necessary arms. He chooses the weapons, which really needs as well as those technologies that are inside the country can only produce in very limited quantities.
— As far as we know, the interaction of Iran and Russia in the Syrian issue has created an entirely new channels for cooperation, such as launching cruise missiles through Iran and using the Knife [referring to a military air base martyred Knife in Hamadan — approx. transl.]. All this clearly strengthened the military power of Russia in the scale of the entire region. Is this unprecedented growth of the military power of Russia at the regional scale are not worried about Iran?
Of course, in a situation in which the growth of military power takes place with the consent of both the parties and taking into account common goals and interests, reasons for concern. We are concerned about military operations in those countries which threaten the security of the region, those countries that provide military, financial and informational support of the IG (banned terrorist organizations — approx.ed.) and other terrorist groups. We are talking about the countries who support these offer achieve the adoption of the security Council for the necessary resolutions, and at the same time, prevent political crises, as happened in Syria or Yemen.
And cooperation between Russia and Iran is part of an overall strategy to counter terrorism in the region. Both sides are interested in it.
— Then should we not consider this military cooperation a prelude to a regional or even global coalition? Or is it only the interaction of a limited character, which in the future will not have a significant impact on regional and global relations?
— Based on the capabilities of both parties, it is actually possible to speak about establishment of effective regional coalitions, ensuring security not only in the region but throughout the world. For example, joint actions taken by Iran, Russia, Iraq, Syria and the Lebanese group “Hezbollah” in Syria you can see how completely changed the balance of forces as terrorists after years of offensive finally had to retreat, as liberated Aleppo.
In my opinion, such a coalition, initially put before itself a limited task, go to a new level This happens due to the fact that their goal was not narrow. Of course, now the terrorist threat is the most important for all peoples of the world. Although the largest and most powerful terrorist group, that is ISIS, over the past two years has significantly lost its power, and lost most of the territories it captured in Iraq and held under control in Syria, it does not mean the disappearance of the threat of terrorism. On the one hand, IG is displaced from Iraq and Syria to other regions, and on the other hand, changing the nature of the threats: it is not how many military threats and capture new territories, many security threats and the possibility of outbreaks of terrorism, which may occur absolutely anywhere. In these circumstances, given the changing strategic balance of forces and the nature of security threats, I consider it necessary to preserve the coalition.
This coalition, without touching the hostilities directly, is very important from an intellectual standpoint. After all, the confrontation between the terrorist organization and opposition to the spread of the ideology of terrorism is two different things. And based on that, you need to understand that the eradication of the ideology of terrorism requires the elimination of not a specific group, and the elimination of the soil the spread of this ideology, eliminate the conditions that lead to ideas of violence, radicalism and extremism.
— Cooperation between major regional player such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, and a world superpower like Russia — no matter what level they were and whatever problems solved — can cause not only the consequences of a strategic nature in the region and around the world. It can send and Iran itself in the way that he is no longer able to change. How Tehran is strong to enable simultaneous use of the opportunities offered by cooperation with a superpower, and at the same time not be hostage to the kind of game is she playing?
— Russian-Iranian cooperation in the sphere of combating terrorism were initially based on the desire of Russia to support the legitimate Syrian government, which fought a war with terrorists, and also on common strategic interests in this matter. And so it remains today. Of course, it’s possible that sometimes our goals may not coincide in some areas such as the fight against the Zionist regime (of Israel — approx. transl.). Here the interaction is already taking a different form. But every country is independent, and every state ranks its foreign policy, based on its own national interests. The policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran since the first years of the revolution (Islamic revolution, 1979 — approx. transl.) also based on the principles of independence and lack of attachment to the policy of any superpower. You need to note that cooperation is not a rejection of independence, but there are General goals that can be achieved only by joint efforts.
On the other hand, since the beginning of strategic cooperation of Russia and Iran on Syria, the political balance of forces has also changed. Once America and a number of Arab States together with their powerful financial lobby has tried to challenge and question the legitimacy of the legitimate government of Syria. However, at the moment when the situation has stabilized and the position of the Syrian government become stronger, Astana began the process that has led to significant progress in the political settlement and in negotiations. But it is important to remember that the Syrian crisis should be examined since its inception six years ago. Our analysis would be incomplete if we fail simultaneously to take into account the specificity of the crisis in Syria the past years and current conditions.
In Seriousily the two countries, Iran and Russia, was largely focused on the fact that Russia has not turned into the Iranian air force and Iran — in the land forces of Russia. Indeed, we in Syria had to deal with such a scheme of cooperation between Iran and Russia, in which there were no obligations. Although this scheme is largely justified in military action, it would not necessarily continue to exist on the political stage of the settlement.Given this, how do you assess the possibilities of continued cooperation at the stage of political negotiations?
— To answer this question it is impossible. Military strategic cooperation involves the use of the military potential of the parties to better address challenges and achieve the goals that are set a single command. If there is a feeling of independence and disappears, therefore, the need in each other’s capabilities, cooperation within the coalition impossible.
As I said, this cooperation scheme has justified itself in the political sphere, and the clear proof of this was the creation of a platform for negotiations in Astana. In the course of these negotiations occurred on the separation of armed groups from militant groups-terrorists and the truce with the first. Also identified the so-called zone of de-escalation on the Syrian territory, which is a very important step.
The most important thing is that there is a common vision of future developments in the region. There is a risk of proliferation to terrorist groups. There — the negative role of the USA and their coalition. Amid all this, there was a more or less lasting Alliance against terrorism, in which there is an exchange of valuable experience.