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.”
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.
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