Russia and Iran are coordinating their efforts to defend embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, according to US and Middle East officials.
Senior diplomats, generals and strategists from both countries have held a series of talks in Moscow in recent months to discuss Assad’s defense and the Kremlin’s military buildup in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the officials.
Russian surveillance drones on Monday started flying missions over Syria, and Moscow has sent two dozen more fighter jets to the country, the newspaper quoted US defense officials as saying.
Efforts by the two countries have focused on the coastal region of Latakia, the base of Assad’s family and his Alawite sect, which has come under pressure from rebel forces to the north, threatening to cut it off from the capital Damascus, the report said.
Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani directs Tehran’s military and intelligence support for the Assad regime and is one of the most powerful leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also visited Moscow last month to discuss Syria and other issues with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Such visits “all come within the framework of this coordination”, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told state media last week, referring specifically to the trip by Zarif and a deputy.
“There is deep coordination on all levels between us and Moscow, and between us and Tehran, and I can say to whomever wants … they can join too.”
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