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Russia, Iran compete to reconstruct Syria

Amid domestic economic constraints, Moscow and Tehran seek additional sponsors for Syria's reconstruction.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin arrive for a news conference following their meeting in Tehran, Iran September 7, 2018. Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via REUTERS - RC1D3DE44960
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The recent downing of a Russian plane in Syria re-energized discussions in Moscow on the role of Russia in Syria and whether the revision of its Syria policy should mean downsizing its own presence in the country and downgrading contacts with Iran. Russia and Iran's relationship revolves largely around military and political issues, despite claims by Moscow and Tehran that they seek to cooperate on trade and economic development and boost cultural ties. The Syrian conflict dominates the agenda in this regard. Russia is also a keen supporter of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), occasionally dispatching its top diplomats to Tehran to persuade Iran to stay in the deal despite Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from it.

While it is not clear whether both of the “backbone” issues holding the partnership together are sturdy enough to call it “strategic,” the relationship between Moscow and Tehran has strengthened amid a variety of global and regional factors. One such factor is the continued deterioration of Russian-American relations to the point of a systemic crisis, coinciding with the White House’s determined measures to strangle Iran economically. Russians have increasingly been studying Iran’s experience of resisting the sanctions.

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