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The New Troika Alliance: Russia-Turkey-Iran Ready to Cooperate on Syria Crisis

Around 24 hours after the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara, the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey met in Moscow to discuss the agenda for greater cooperation in the Syrian crisis. While the trilateral cooperation may be an effective way to settle the crisis, questions loom as to how the troika alliance can come to a political solution with marginalized U.S. intervention in the negotiations.

In Monday’s joint press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the steps the troika alliance should adopt against the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front; “Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been recently taking coordinated steps that have allowed for the safe evacuation of the majority of the civilian population from eastern Aleppo with support of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization.”

The three capitals, Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran passed the Moscow Declaration that designs a ceasefire after five consecutive years of the Syrian Civil War. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the goal of the Moscow Declaration “was to achieve a ceasefire in Syria’s five-year-old civil war which has killed more than 400,000, displaced more than 10 million and led to a refugee crisis in Europe that has destabilized governments.”

During the meetings, the three foreign ministers remained committed to a political solution, but this will be very difficult especially if there is more western interference. Russia’s role in Syria is to increase security and rejuvenate the Syrian economy, but Russia wants other nations to divulge their goals. Throughout the Syria Crisis, Turkey’s objectives have been aligned with the West in overthrowing Assad, but with the failed coup in July, Turkish officials have found common ground with the Russians and the Iranians on resolving a political solution. Russia could be the catalyst that encourages both Turkey and Iran to adopt a pragmatic approach within the region in the interests of defeating terrorism, the principle threat to the global community.

The United States, response to these trilateral negotiations is concern that the balance of power could change in Syria. The troika alliance could possibly challenge the Western hegemony in the region and counter Western interests such as bringing in more humanitarian aid, destroying oil fields and blocking safe havens for refugees escaping the crisis.

The United States and the seventy-member coalition still remains engaged in a political solution and State Department Spokesman John Kirby stated that the United States denies, “the U.S. role as the indispensable power in the Middle East had been diminished or replaced by Russia and it new allies.”

The west may be on the sidelines of the recently ratified Moscow Declaration, but these trilateral negotiations will not put an end to the Syria civil war once and for all. The United States must act as a diplomatic leader and role model for the global community. This means that the U.S. must accept the roles other countries are playing as well, including the troika alliance.

The troika alliance is tired of five years of civil war in Syria and they are now addressing the crisis without any help from the west and its regional actors. This trilateral alliance may not provide the political solution to the situation in Syria, but at least they are making some progress by talking and agreeing on the need to find reasonable solutions to the crisis. Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns stated that the United States’ influence in the Middle East is dwindling, due to its absence from the talks in Moscow, even though the U.S. still remains heavily engaged in the region; “We were the dominant diplomatic power. Now, we’re not even at the table.” The West and the actors that support the Assad regime might not see eye to eye, but the common enemy is Islamist terrorism, and this should be the main objective for both sides.