Is Putin trying to pressure Assad to negotiate?

Commenting on an article by Russia analyst Morteza Makki appearing in an Iranian daily, Arash Karami writes: Makki wrote that despite [Foreign Minister] Zarif’s positive statement on the withdrawal, “this quick and surprising decision by Russia shows that Iran and Russia’s partnership in Syria was not a strategic partnership. The Russians make decisions based on their own calculations and interests, and the partnership was not such that Iran and Syria would be able to push forward with their views and positions by leaning on the Russians.”

Makki continued that it is possible Russia’s decision was made to force President Bashar al-Assad’s government to show flexibility in the Geneva negotiations, saying that in their recent statements, the Syrians have been very optimistic and have presented red lines regarding Assad’s departure. Even conservative media outlets have suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin was angered by Syrian officials’ comments ahead of the negotiations in Geneva.

When it comes to Syria, the Iranian media has typically been keen to conform to the statements of officials. To see an article suggest that the official version presented by authorities is hiding key points is rare indeed. Most Iranian media outlets have parroted official positions on the Russian withdrawal, but they, too, have struggled to explain it. Even Iran Newspaper, which operates under the administration’s direction, called the withdrawal “surprising.” [Continue reading…]

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