Russia and Iran are in a heated race over field gains in Syria. This rivalry is not only playing out on the ground, but in diplomacy in the war-ravaged country.
Newly-appointed Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad had kicked off his duties by making a visit to Iran. His second official trip will take him to Russia on Wednesday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had urged against making too much political speculation over why he visited Tehran before Moscow. Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova revealed that Moscow was in fact the destination of Mekdad’s first foreign visit, but scheduling conflicts with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov forced him to change his plan.
Her remarks did nothing to stem the speculation of the rivalry.
Russian media reported on the “priorities of the new foreign minister, which were revealed during his Tehran visit.” Observers noted soon after Mekdad’s appointment that he was a figure “who is close to Iran.”
Russia and Iran have been vying for control in regions held by the Syrian regime.
Moscow had recently set up a military position in Alboukamal in the Deir Ezzor countryside by the Iraqi border in spite of the vehement rejection expressed by Iranian militias that control the city.
The development took place as pro-regime sources revealed that Syrian security forces had raided an Iranian militia position in Deir Ezzor, arresting several of its members.
Russia has also upped its cooperation with the regime. Russian military officials revealed that they are helping Syrian forces carry out patrols in the Golan Heights near the line that separates Syrian forces from Israeli ones.