Revealed: Russian incursion into Syria that caught U.S. intelligence off-guard was, er, planned months ago

Hey, anyone could have missed the signs. Like the leader of the Quds Force traveling to Moscow in late July, a visit so ominous and high-profile that several major American news outlets reported on it at the time.

The only downside to Obama not being able to run for reelection is that it strips him of his last incentive to pay attention to things like this anymore.

At a meeting in Moscow in July, a top Iranian general unfurled a map of Syria to explain to his Russian hosts how a series of defeats for President Bashar al-Assad could be turned into victory – with Russia’s help…

“[Gen. Qassem] Soleimani put the map of Syria on the table. The Russians were very alarmed, and felt matters were in steep decline and that there were real dangers to the regime. The Iranians assured them there is still the possibility to reclaim the initiative,” a senior regional official said. “At that time, Soleimani played a role in assuring them that we haven’t lost all the cards.”

Three senior officials in the region say Soleimani’s July trip was preceded by high-level Russian-Iranian contacts that produced political agreement on the need to pump in new support for Assad as his losses accelerated.

Their accounts suggest planning for the intervention began to germinate several months earlier. It means Tehran and Moscow had been discussing ways to prop up Assad by force even as Western officials were describing what they believed was new flexibility in Moscow’s stance on his future.

And yet somehow we were “caught off-guard.” Noah Pollak translates:

https://twitter.com/NoahPollak/status/651459772827463685

That’s grimly funny, but is it right? Seems to me that Occam’s Razor suggests an alternate explanation: U.S. intelligence realized months ago that Iran was plotting to bring Russia into Syria on Assad’s side but Obama didn’t dare make a peep lest it jeopardize the nuclear deal that’s supposedly going to secure his foreign-policy legacy. The nuclear agreement with Iran was reached just 10 days before Suleimani’s trip to Moscow, suggesting that Iran waited until the White House had bet its last bit of international prestige on the deal’s survival before dispatching Suleimani to wreak havoc on our Syria policy. They knew that once Obama had started selling the deal to Americans as a historic victory for his diplomacy, there’s virtually nothing Iran could do internationally that’s so vile that O would feel obliged to walk away from it — or to confront Iran in a way that would lead them to walk away from him. He married the Khomeinists when he signed that deal and now we’re seeing how he had no choice but to look the other way as Suleimani invited Putin into Syria in plain sight. I wonder what would happen if he started sending heavier weaponry to American-backed rebels in Syria and Iran privately warned him that if that continued, they’d tear up the nuclear deal. Would he dare defy them? If he called their bluff and they did in fact end up tearing up the agreement, it’d be the defining humiliation of his presidency. He had trusted them to behave like “responsible international actors” or whatever the proper FoPo euphemism is for non-terrorist states and they’d crossed him before the ink was even dry. His best play was to simply act dumb when he realized what Iran and Russia were doing while trying to get Putin to agree to a “political settlement” in Syria instead, even if it meant leaving Assad in power for far longer than the U.S. wanted. And that’s what he did.

And now, having said that, I denounce myself for having committed borderline treason for suggesting that our president’s a schmuck who places his faith in all the wrong regimes.