Muslim Press has conducted an interview with Professor Nader Entessar, to discuss the Syrian crisis and the future of peace process in the Arab country.
“Both Russia and Iran have played a consistent role in combating terrorism in Syria,” he said. “Turkey's role has evolved over time.”
“It now appears that there is an evolving Moscow-Tehran-Ankara axis that has sought to develop a coordinated roadmap to tackle the Syrian conflict,” he added.
Below is the full transcript of the interview:
Muslim Press: What’s your take on regional countries’ cooperation to pave the way for the end of the Syrian conflict?
Nader Entessar: Although the level of cooperation among the regional countries in bringing the Syrian conflict to an end is important, we have to note that the extent of regional cooperation has been uneven and not always satisfactory. The Syrian conflict has involved various regional countries with conflicting goals and objectives. But there is no doubt that without active cooperation among the regional countries, especially in combating terrorist groups, the Syrian conflict cannot come to a successful conclusion.
MP: What role are Russia, Iran, and Turkey playing in that regard?
Nader Entessar: Both Russia and Iran have played a consistent role in combating terrorism in Syria. Turkey's role has evolved over time. It now appears that there is an evolving Moscow-Tehran-Ankara axis that has sought to develop a coordinated roadmap to tackle the Syrian conflict. This has made it easier for the Syrian forces to finally confront ISIS and its supporting cast in a sustained manner and thus score major victories in various ISIS strongholds, the latest of which occurred in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria.
MP: Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Iran Mohammad Bagheri has recently paid a rare visit to Turkey. What’s the significance of this visit?
Nader Entessar: The Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces trip to Turkey, which took place at the invitation of General Bagheri's Turkish counterpart, was a turning point in Turkish-Iranian security cooperation. This event marked the first trip of that magnitude by a high-ranking Iranian military official in almost 40 years. The two sides discussed a wide range of security issues and agreed to develop coordinated plans to combat mutual threats. Although it is too early to evaluate the long-range implications of General Bagheri's trip to Turkey, we nevertheless should recognize the historic significance of the trip for the future of Turkish-Iranian relations.
MP: How do you view Saudi Arabia’s role in the Syrian conflict? Is Riyadh likely to change its policies toward the conflict?
Nader Entessar: Saudi Arabia was among the first regional countries that became heavily involved in funding the various anti-Assad terrorist groups. Riyadh's goal was to replace the Syrian government with one in line with Saudi Arabia's foreign policy goals. However, the failure of the Saudi policy became evident as the time progressed. Consequently, Riyadh signaled some flexibility in its Syria policy. It is too early to determine if this shift indicates pragmatism in Saudi Arabia's foreign policy towards Syria, or it is simply a tactical adjustment that Riyadh has been forced to undertake at a time when the country's regional foreign policy has suffered setbacks, especially in Yemen.
Nader Entessar is a professor in and the chair of the department of political science and criminal justice at the University of South Alabama. He is the co-author of the recently-published book "Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Accord and Detente since the Geneva Agreement of 2013," and the co-author of the forthcoming book "Iran Nuclear Accord and the Re-Making of the Middle East."