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Iran and Russia, Growing Apart

Rising Dissent Over the IRGC’s Militias

(L to R) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russian President Vladmir Putin, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, November 2017. Sputnik Photo Agency / Reuters

Today, the latest round of UN-brokered Syria peace talks begins in Geneva, with the goal of bringing President Bashar al-Assad and various armed opposition factions to a political settlement that could put an end to half a decade of civil war in the country.

The Geneva talks come one week after another set of Syria talks, this time in Sochi. The November 22 gathering, which included some of the conflict’s key remaining players—Iran, Turkey, and Russia—was supposed to be a turning point in the issue of Syria’s future. At least that had been Tehran’s hope. Instead, the talks highlighted emerging fissures between Assad’s two main foreign backers, Iran and Russia, and even divisions within Iran between the civilian government of President Hassan Rouhani and the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

In short, the IRGC, which over the last seven years has established

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