As the Islamic State suffers defeat after defeat in Iraq and Syria, the geopolitical equations are slowly but surely changing in the region, breaking new ground and firming up old alliances. From all available accounts, Iran is on the rise. It had successfully negotiated a nuclear deal with the US and shaken off the sanctions. As an icing on the cake, it has taken its relations with an equally resurgent Russia to new heights. A bold assertion of their deepening friendship came a few days back when Iran let Russia use its Shahid Nojeh airbase near Hamedan to launch airstrikes on terrorists in Syria. It was the first time after second world war that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its soil, brushing aside objections from some that it was in violation of the country’s constitution.
Within days after this development came the announcement from Tehran that it has taken full delivery of the advanced S-300 air defence missile system from Russia — a deal that had been hanging in the air since 2010. And, on Sunday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was proudly standing in front of the country’s indigenously developed Bavar 373 missile defence system. With both Iran and Russia supporting Syria’s Assad to the hilt, and the US and other western powers, acting in sync with Sunni powers in the region like Saudi Arabia, the arch rival of Iran, the stage now seems set for a new proxy war after the exit of the Islamic State, the common enemy of both the camps. The proxy war is in fact already on in Syria, where the civil war has claimed lakhs of people and displaced over seven million people.
A post-war peace plan could be chalked out now itself, if all the stakeholders are interested in long-term peace in the region. Unfortunately, that seems far-fetched with both the camps bent on proving a point. With Turkey too inching closer to Russia, the new game in the Middle East is only going to get complicated.