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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin in Syria: June 9, 2016

Publication: Putin in Syria
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Defense Minister in Iran to Meet Iranian and Syrian Counterparts
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is in Tehran to meet with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, RBC reported, citing RIA Novosti.

Defense Ministry deputy head Anatoly Antonov told reporters that Shoigu would disguss "priority measures to strengthen cooperation" in fighting ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Shoigu's meetings with Iranian Defense Ministery Hossein Dehghan and Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij come at a critical time, says"

The tripartite meeting comes as the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has reached a critical phase with the Iraqi Army approaching the group’s stronghold of Fallujah and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are marching on the group’s bastion in northern Syria. Meanwhile, the Syrian Armed Forces, backed by Russian air force, have started a wide-scale military operation to liberate ISIS’ capital of al-Raqqa.

While in Tehran Shoigu will also meet with Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and former defense minister.

Shoigu's last trip to Tehran was in February.

The Russian-language Mignews bluntly stated the agenda behind the meetings in its headline: "Alliance Against American Hegemony."

(MigNews (Media International Group) is owned by Ukrainian oligarch Vadym Rabynovych, who has a seat in parliament as the 4th member on the Opposition Bloc list.)

Russia made a show of withdrawing planes from Syria after launching a bombing campaign September 30, 2016 which has largely involving bypassing ISIS to attack anti-Assad forces. Recently, Russia said it would provide air support to the Syrian Army in Aleppo, however and it still maintains a significant fleet in Syria.

French special forces have joined elite Brish troops in the fight against ISIS in Syria, AP reports.

Bomb attacks claimed by ISIS in Iraq killed 31 today.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry site, prior to his trip to Iran, Shoigu stopped in neighboring Turkmenistan, a former Soviet Republic, in a rare Russian-Turkmen high-level meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov himself.

The Defense Ministry statement said Shoigu briefed Berdymukhamedov on the Russian operation in Syria and noted that Turkmenistan is a "strategic partner" for Russian. But Berdymukhamedov replied that while Ashkhabad has an "open-door policy" it has not joined "any blocs, especially of a military nature." Turkmenistan is not a member of the Russian-dominated regional Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Shoigu also met with Turkmen Defense Minister Yaylym Berdiyev. 

Turkmenistan and Russia have had rocky relations since 2009 when Turkmenistan blamed Russia for a gas pipeline explosion after which is reduced gas purchases as Turkmenistan began to sell more gas to China and hold talks with the EU. Recently there has been more activity as Russia has expressed concern about security on Turkmen borders with incidents related to the war in Afghanistan.

As was revealed by leaked WikiLeaks cables, the US maintains a listening post on Iran via its embassy in Ashkhabad. Numerous Iranians travel to Turkmenistan, the most oppressive of the post-Soviet republics, some delivering goods and some coming on vacation as conditions are more free. The largely Muslim population is more secularized and women do not wear the veil.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick