Bashar al-Assad Visits Tehran For First Time Since Outbreak Of Syria War
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad traveled to Iran for the first time since the outbreak in 2011 of war in his country. He met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and “reviewed the fraternal and strong relations between their two peoples, which have been the main factor in maintaining Syria and Iran in the face of plots by enemy countries,” a perceived reference to the United States and Sunni Arab regional nations that support Syrian opposition groups. For his part, Khamenei stressed that “Iran considers helping the government and nation of Syria to be helping the resistance movement and is proud of it from the bottom of its heart.” He added that “victory” in Syria dealt “a harsh blow” to U.S. plans in the Middle East. Notably, Assad also met with Qasem Soleimani, the notorious head of Iran’s Quds Force—the overseas arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps—which has played a major role in the fighting on the ground in Syria. To this end, the Islamic Republic, in conjunction with Russia, essentially saved Assad’s rule by intervening militarily in the conflict at a time when the regime was on the brink of collapse. Over the past year, the triumvirate has retaken huge swaths of rebel-held territory, although Idlib Province remains dominated by an al Qai’da-linked group whereas much of the eastern part of Syria is under the control of American-backed Kurdish forces that are amid a final push to oust Islamic State from its last stronghold. Thereafter, Washington intends to set up a safe zone along the Turkish border to prevent attacks on the Syrian Kurds, whom Ankara views as an extension of the banned PKK. Both Assad and Iran oppose the prospective move, which reportedly will involve the formation of a multi-national peacekeeping force tasked with monitoring the buffer area.