The of the protests in Iran on Jan.

The Winter of Iran’s Discontent: Russia’s
Perspective  

                                                             
Alex GORKA

The
wave of Iranian protests is not dying out.  Angry people continue
to hit the streets and the feeling of discontent has not
evaporated.  The slogans show they mean
business. With little information coming out, it’s impossible to make any
assessments. The protesters appear to have no leaders and it’s hard to say if
their actions are organized.  Some people
may welcome the events, some adopt negative attitude and some may be reserved,
taking a wait-and-see approach.

Are
the protests incited from outside? On January 29, ambassadors from the United
Nations Security Council were
invited on a  field
trip to Washington to inspect remnants of Iranian weapons supposedly illegally
supplied to insurgents in Yemen. The ambassadors visited
the White House where President Donald Trump told them about the need to
counter “Iran’s destabilization
activities in the Middle East.”

It’s
worth to note that the event took place on the eve of the renewal of the
protests in Iran on Jan. 30. Was it a coincidence? Everybody has their own opinion but the last time the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley presented
what she called “concrete evidence” of Iran’s weapons proliferation was in mid-December, 2017.  A
wave of protests hit Iran in early January 2018.  A few days after, the US introduced new sanctions on Iran. This is just an observation, nothing
more.

This
is an internal affair of Iran, of course, though sympathies may differ. Unlike
the US, the EU, Israel or Saudi Arabia, Russia has not taken sides, calling on
other actors not to meddle. It’s really neutral. Iranian people are the ones to
decide what’s better for them.  The only
thing to do is to keep the fingers crossed hoping there will be no bloodshed.

It’s worth to consider nothing but facts in an unbiased way.   Some
consequences to impact the situation in the Middle East are unavoidable. No matter
how strong the Russia’s air force presence in Syria is, it cannot keep the
Assad’s government in power without boots on the ground.  Today, military cooperation between Russia
and Iran is crucial to keep the situation under control and prevent the
resumption of large-scale hostilities.  

According
to scenario number one, the rebels win, the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran is toppled
and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards formations are rapidly withdrawn from Syria.
Another scenario-the regime quells the rebellion, with a smoldering large-scale
conflict to last for a long time.  In
both cases the outcome is the same – the Revolutionary Guards will have to
leave Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and return home to protect the government.  One should be realistic – with Iran gone,
Persian Gulf monarchies and their supports will come in. Russia enjoys good
working relations with these countries to make them part of the ongoing peace
process.

In
any of these scenarios, Iranian ground forces will partially or fully withdraw
from Syria and someone will have to fill the void.

This
turn of events is quite unexpected as everyone believed the Iran’s government
was stable. But you never know. After all, nobody expected the Iranians to oust
the US-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi
in 1979.

So,
it’s highly probable that Russia will have to rush in more troops, or rather
military police for peacekeeping missions, into Syria for a limited period of
time. With peace process making progress, the forces could be completely
withdrawn to leave only the contingents deployed at the two military
bases.   The action could be coordinated
with Syria, Turkey, Iran and other key players. The Russia’s military police
units monitoring de-escalation zones have
proven to be a very effective force.

It
does not necessarily mean intensification of combat actions. One of the ways to
mitigate the probable reduction of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces is the
intensification of diplomatic efforts, such as the Russia’s “Syrian People’s Congress”   currently held in
Sochi. No doubt such activities will be
intensified. Moscow can lead an international coalition of pertinent actors.

Iran’s
reduced presence in Syria will not  
automatically lead to resumption of hostilities across the country. This
scenario can be avoided. But the increase of boots on the ground forces to
carry out peacekeeping missions will come to the fore.  Nobody wants it, everyone tried to avert it
but one cannot ignore reality – it’s either more ground forces to support the
government of Assad or sliding back to where we were before Russia lent a
helping hand to Assad in September 2015. 

Russia
promotes an all-inclusive dialogue in Syria. The fact that is friendly with
everyone except jihadi terrorists, makes Moscow the key broker of a peace
deal.  It is in unique position to head
the process and achieve what nobody else can – a peace settlement in Syria. It
does not apply to Syria only but rather
the entire Middle East.