TEHRAN: The new phase of Iran-Syria military cooperation will be the strengthening of Syria’s air defenses, which could be a serious countermeasure against the US and Zionist threats in the region.
Active defense diplomacy has been one of the most important objectives of Major General Mohammad Bagheri after his appointment in July 2016 as the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces. During these years, dynamic and efficient defense diplomacy has been pursued as one of the major policies of the General Staff of the Armed Forces alongside efforts to increase the country’s defense and security capabilities. Now, after 4 years, with the visit of high-ranking Iranian military delegation headed by Major General Bagheri to Syria last week and the signing of an agreement, bilateral cooperation between Tehran and Damascus has entered a new phase.
The visits of Iranian military delegations to countries such as Russia, China, Italy, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Oman, and Syria, besides hosting high-ranking military delegations from countries such as Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Bolivia, Afghanistan, and Syria, as well as holding the largest military summit in the history of Iran in May 2018 with the participation of more than 35 high-ranking military delegations from around the world, and of course holding joint naval exercises with China and Russia are some notable examples of active defense diplomacy in the new era.
In addition to the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defense, the Army, the IRGC and law enforcement have also adopted a new and dynamic approach in the field of defense diplomacy during this period by making numerous trips to friendly and allied countries such as China, Russia, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Armenia, as well as hosting their counterparts, during which they discussed common issues and reached some good agreements.
Active defense diplomacy is very important and strategic in the region and the world, which can, along with active political, economic and cultural diplomacy, promote the national interests of the country and increase its strategic depths.
During these years, Iran’s active defense diplomacy has been pursuing various objectives, and the trips and meetings of high-ranking Iranian military officials to other countries and hosting of their counterparts from different countries of the world include goals such as developing military and defense cooperation, fighting terrorism and countering common threats, combating drug trafficking, securing borders and international trade, as well as holding joint training courses and joint exercises.
1. Development of defense and military cooperation
The development of defense relations and joint cooperation to ensure border security and the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism has been one of the most important topics of discussion and consultations between Major General Bagheri and other high-ranking military officials in his trips and meetings with counterparts.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has always emphasized the development of bilateral relations with countries based on mutual respect in the regional and global arenas. Active defense diplomacy and the meetings of top Iranian military officials with their counterparts can be considered as a move to develop bilateral or multilateral relations to promote security and stability in the region and the world.
In this regard, we can mention Major General Bagheri’s visits to Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey, and Syria, each of which was the first visit of a high-ranking Iranian military official to these countries after the Islamic Revolution. Also, the visit of high-ranking military officials from countries such as Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Syria, and Pakistan to Iran, all in line with promoting active defense diplomacy and military and defense cooperation to ensure border security and fight terrorism and trafficking.
Increasing relations and cooperation within the framework of bilateral and multilateral agreements is another aspect of active defense diplomacy of the Armed Forces to ensure the country’s interests and promote stability and security in the region. Examples include Iran’s membership and presidency of the Indian Ocean Summit, the holding of joint military commissions with friendly and allied countries, as well as organizing Regional Security Dialogue in Tehran.
All these measures can help Iran play a more active role in the international arena and ensure the country’s national interstress. This had been perhaps overlooked in the past, but after the appointment of Major General Bagheri and the adoption of a new approach, active defense diplomacy has brought many achievements for the country and heralds a brighter future in this field.
2. Holding joint naval exercises
Holding joint military drills with other countries is another example of active diplomacy in order to establish peace and security in the region. Iran has held several naval exercises in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean, two important examples of which are the joint relief exercises of the Indian Ocean countries and the joint naval exercises of Iran, Russia, and China.
The Iran-Russia-China joint naval exercise, which was very special and unprecedented, started on December 27, 2019, with the participation of Russian and Chinese surface units in Shahid Beheshti port of Chabahar and continued for three days in the form of various exercises such as surface shooting, maritime relief and rescue, fire fighting and countering piracy.
This joint exercise was a good indication of the transformation of Islamic Iran into a world superpower that was capable of partaking in a joint naval exercise alongside two other world superpowers, namely China and Russia.
3. Fighting terrorism and countering common threats
The Islamic Republic, as one of the main victims of terrorism and having lost more than 17,000 officials and innocent people to this sinister scourge, has always called for the global fight against terrorism and extremism and the cooperation of all countries to eradicate it. In this regard, senior Iranian officials have always emphasized a comprehensive confrontation with global terrorism in their trips and meetings with other countries’ heads of state. For this, Iran has taken extensive practical measures in support of the nations and legitimate governments of neighboring countries such as Syria and Iraq. Today, it is clear to free thinkers around the world that Islamic Iran, with its financial, spiritual, arms, and advisory support, has been one of the main factors in the defeat of Takfiri terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
The fight against terrorism has been one of the various aspects of Iran’s active military and defense diplomacy during these years. The Islamic Republic has sought to expand relations and joint cooperation to counter the scourge of extremism and terrorism that threatens global security. Perhaps the culmination of this military cooperation can be seen in the Syrian issue and the cooperation of Iran, Russia, and Syria, which, of course, brought many achievements and led to the liberation of a large part of Syrian territory from terrorists. This cooperation later expanded to include Turkey as well.
The visit of Turkey’s former Chief of the General Staff, Hulusi Akar, to Iran on October 1, 2017, which was made in response to the visit of the high-ranking Iranian military delegation to Turkey, is one of the examples of consultations of Iranian officials to fight terrorism. Major General Bagheri has also paid two visits to Syria, one in October 2017 and one just last week, which many admit was even more important than his other trips.
Visits to Russia, Pakistan, and China and meetings with senior political and military officials of these countries is another important and, of course, unprecedented, trip of Iran’s highest military official to fight terrorism and extremism.
4. Collective cooperation to ensure the security of maritime trade and fight against pirates
Piracy has been threatening the security of world trade and the economy of countries in recent years. Undoubtedly, piracy in international waters is a new type of organized threat and one of the most worrisome challenges currently facing world trade.
Over the past few years, numerous pirate attacks on commercial ships in international waters, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, have posed new aspects of regional aggression and organized trans-regional threats to countries in the region. Ever since the rampant pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden started to disrupt the normal course of trade and commerce of Iranian merchant ships in the region, Iran’s Navy has been deploying naval units to the Gulf of Aden which have succeeded to present damages done by pirate attacks for the most part.
The powerful presence of Iranian naval fleets in international waters and the Gulf of Aden was not only a crushing response to the pirates present in the region, but it also carried a message of readiness and strength for major powers. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic, which emphasizes the cooperation of countries to ensure the security of the region without the presence of trans-regional powers, hosted a world summit in this regard.
The culmination of Iran’s active defense diplomacy in line with expanding military and defense cooperation may be the visit of Major General Bagheri to Syria last week, which included a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Defense Minister, as well as the signing of a comprehensive agreement to strengthen military and security cooperation between the two countries.
Military cooperation between Iran and Syria going as far back as the early days after the Islamic Revolution and the Imposed War, began with training and military assistance to Iran during the time of Hafez al-Assad, which recalls the days of Shahid Tehrani Moghadam’s and his companions’ presence in Syria for getting missile training, which was the starting point for Iran to become a world power in the field of missiles. The military cooperation between the two countries changed its nature as Iran grew in power and culminated in the fight against takfiri terrorists such as ISIL and Al Nusra Front.
It is widely acknowledged that this cooperation and Iran’s unwavering support for the Syrian government and people was a major factor in the defeat of terrorist groups. Today, with the second visit of Major General Bagheri to Syria and the signing of a comprehensive agreement to strengthen military and security cooperation between the two countries, military cooperation between Iran and Syria has entered a new phase.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Major General Mohammad Bagheri and Syrian Defense Minister General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. In their joint final statement, the two countries stressed the need for continued coordination to counter the numerous and growing challenges and dangers and to continue the fight against Takfiri terrorism supported by some regional and international powers under any name.
During the talks between the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces and the Syrian Minister of Defense, the two sides discussed the situation in Syria and stressed the need for the withdrawal of foreign troops that had an illegal presence in Syria.
Emphasizing that Iran would strengthen Syria’s air defense systems, General Bagheri said during the meeting, “The signed agreement will increase our will to work together to counter US pressure.”
Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, for his part, said that if the US government could bring Iran, Syria, and the axis of Resistance to its knees, it would not hesitate for a moment. “No matter how high the price we pay for resistance, it’s still much lower than surrendering,” he said.
Therefore, it can be said that the new stage of military cooperation between Iran and Syria will be the strengthening of Syria’s air defense by Iran, which according to the main parties to the agreement can be a serious confrontation with the US and Zionist threats in the region.