5 weeks after the beginning of the Russian air offensive in Syria, foreign ministers from Russia, Iran, the United States and others began talks in Vienna to seek an interim solution. After 4 years of civil war the worlds main powers may be close to deconflicting their interests in Syria and moving towards a more unified approach to a global not just a regional issue.
Over the last 2 weeks the Russia the air offensive combined with Syrian and Iranian ground operations have put Al Qaeda affiliate Jabat al-Nursa (al-Nursa Front) on the defensive by successfully targeting top commanders like Abu Sulieman Al-Masri and Commander Muhjaher. This comes as al-Nursa and IS militants were in talks with each other concerning a deal to combine forces to hold off the Syrian offensive. Effective Russian targeting of these militants has had a direct impact on militant strategy. In particular, Russian aircraft have destroyed 249 Islamic State command posts, 51 training camps, and 131 depots, according to Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Directorate. Russia started precision airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria on September 30, following a request from Syria’s internationally recognized government. The Russian airstrikes hit targets based on intelligence collected by Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran, highlighting the regional support for this campaign.
The Vienna talks have shown the resurgence of Iran as a regional actor, no doubt buoyed up by the nuclear deal with the United States. Iran is calling for the Syrian people to choose their own path in relation to the conflict. Interestingly talks in Vienna are not just based on Russia and the West attempting to find solutions to their own differences over military action, there are reports of exchanges of lists between Saudi Arabia and Russia of groups who they would be willing to talk to and negotiate with post conflict. The United States has pledged to provide a similar list of groups they are willing to discuss the future of government in Damascus with. Russia’s deputy foreign minister says Russia has exchanged such a list with Saudi Arabia with regard to Syrian opposition groups who they think should be involved in political talks over the country’s civil war.