Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenai, may decide to abandon Syria's Bashar Assad if he appears doomed, an analyst says.
"Assad is in deep trouble [and] Khamenei will not want to sink alongside Assad," Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born commentator with the Israel-based think tank, MEEPAS, told Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
"The second he realizes that Assad's ship is sinking, and that the situation can't be salvaged, he'd abandon him -- maybe not publicly, but privately," posited Javedanfar. "In fact it would be safe to assume that the Iranians are already privately asking Assad to introduce major reforms. They may even be talking to some elements within the Syrian opposition."
RFE/RL reported that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu "read the riot act to the Syrian president" on his visit to Damascus two days ago. Upon returning to Ankara, the news agency said, Davutoglu "implicitly acknowledged" that Turkey had "effectively abandoned Assad" and that its sympathies were now with the opposition.
Davutoglu said that the situation would "be passing through a critical process" in the coming days and that Turkey's "main criterion is that the shape of the process must reflect only the will of the Syrian people."
Turkey's position on Syria is also dampening its relations with Iran, which for the time being is backing Assad, a key ally. But Murat Bilhan, an international relations expert and former Turkish diplomat in Iran, said relations between Turkey and Iran -- though colder -- are salvageable.
"I don't think Turkey has lost Iran," he says. "Iran may not be lost but Iran may be a little distant -- more distant than before and they would not trust [each other]. But, if and when Turkish and Iranian interests converge, say for instance in fighting against separatism or something, then they would cooperate."