Unexpected Allies Russia, Turkey, And Iran United Under Common Goal: Reduce Violence In Syria

Russia, Turkey, and Iran’s leaders are preparing to partake in a summit this week to discuss matters regarding the reduction of violence in Syria. The leaders will aim to come up with methods to deliver humanitarian aid to the war-torn region as well as tactics to promote a political transition within the country. An alliance between the three countries was unexpected due to the conflicting sides they are on in regards to whether or not they support Bashar al-Assad’s presidency in Syria. Russia, Turkey, and Iran, however, are united against the U.S.’s military involvement within the region, especially as their operation is without the agreement of the government in Damascus.

Russia, Turkey, and Iran have attested themselves to be the “guarantors of the political settlement, stability, and security that is seen now in Syria.”  All three countries sponsored the Astana talks that successfully saw the development of de-escalation zones in Syria, which substantially reduced tensions within the region. As a result, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ is highly confident that the leaders will successfully make important evaluations ensuring a long-term political transition process in Syria. However, the U.S. is not confident that the summit will yield successful outcomes due to Russia’s refusal to support their initiation to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley has thereby questioned Russia’s interest in the region asking, “How, then can we trust Russia’s supposed support for peace in Syria?”

The summit is a positive movement towards peace in Syria, which will hopefully put an end to the four and a half years of conflict throughout which 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives. However, the Summit’s opposition of U.S. forces in Syria has been predicted to potentially induce conflict, as Russian-allied forces have threatened to attack the U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from areas liberated from the Islamic State. If the Russian military were to attack these forces, the attack would only go against the summit’s mission and escalate tensions.

The nature of the alliance between Turkey, Iran, and Russia has been heavily contested due to their past history of competition and cooperation. While Turkey and Russia support President Bashar al-Assad, Iran backs rebels who want Assad gone. This backing of different sides has strained the relationship of the three countries in the past and will undeniably generate tensions throughout the summit. However, Iran, Russia, and Turkey have proven that they can cooperate as seen in their involvement in the Astana talks, their common goal to increase efforts to ensure the long-term stabilization of Syria, and to advance the process to achieve a political settlement.

The war in Syria has lasted too long, with too many lives lost. The fact that three countries that were previously in competition with one another have united under the common mission to promote peace in Syria is a hopeful sign that tensions within the wider Middle-Eastern region may also neutralize. However, Russia, Syria, and Iran’s opposition of the U.S. is concerning, though hopefully the summit will exclude any attack on U.S.-allied Syrian and Kurdish forces.

Hannah Barter-Konecny