Iran has designs to push Russian forces out of their strongholds in Syria over time and install Hezbollah-like militias in the region, according to Russian media reports.
Tehran has long yearned for a ‘Shia land bridge’ from the Iranian mainland to the Mediterranean coast to give the Islamic regime a viable warm water port in the strategically located Med.
Tehran may equip a military port near Russian bases in Syria, a diplomatic source told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, referring to a May 5 report that an Iranian oil tanker, that had been allegedly heading to Turkey but changed its course, stopped at Syria’s Banias port. According to the source, in the future this port city may become the Islamic Republic’s military facility, and it is not ruled out that the establishment of a base between Russia’s positions in Tartus and Hmeymim may have far-reaching consequences. Experts believe that Russia and Iran are showing unanimity only on a strategic level, but the two countries’ positions differ on many issues, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
“Iran’s activity near Banias may have a destabilizing effect not only for the region, but also for the forces, which are trying to stabilize this region,” a diplomatic source told the paper. “It’s important to have a closer look at what is going on around the port because in the future it may become Iran’s military base near the Mediterranean Sea.”
Iran’s access to the Mediterranean Sea deprives Russia of its monopoly on economic presence in Syria’s coastal areas and creates certain security risks. The territorial proximity of Iranian facilities, regardless of their purpose, may not only technically complicate life for Russian servicemen, but also put them under surveillance, the paper writes.
Part of the tension may be attributable to conflicts between Russian oligarchs and Iranian corrupt officials looking to ‘milk’ the region for raw materials and other business interests. The Persian and Russian empires have historically been at odds, so this new ‘axis of enemies’ may not hold under the Trump pressure as American looks to tighten the stranglehold on the mullahs in Tehran.