It’s been a pretty good year for Iran and Russia, no? The US and the West will unfreeze long-held Iranian assets and end sanctions against the regime without any requirement to end its support for terrorism, allowing the Iranian mullahs to build a much stronger economy to support even more terrorism. Their main beneficiary of their terror proxies, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, has a much greater chance of surviving his civil war now that Vladimir Putin gets to act like the leader of a bona fide superpower, too. Russia has launched cruise missile strikes in support of its air campaign, and the Syrian army has moved forward 70 kilometers into territory held by rebels for months:
Russia is launching cruise missiles as part of a coordinated ground and air attack with the Syrian regime, and CBS News correspondent Holly Williams says after four years of deadly civil war, the Russian campaign may be tipping the balance in favor of the regime. …
More than a week after it began launching airstrikes in Syria, Russia seems to be reasserting itself as a superpower.
Protected by the Russian air cover, Syrian regime troops have pushed into rebel strongholds in the country’s northwest.
“Today the Syrian armed forces started a wide-scale attack aimed at uprooting terrorists’ gatherings and liberating the areas and towns which have been suffering of the woes and crimes of terrorism,” Syria’s Chief of the General Staff of the Army and Armed Forces, Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub, said Thursday.
Ayoub said the Russian strikes had “reduced the fighting capacity of the terrorists,” without elaborating.
USA Today’s Kim Hjelmgaard reports that Iran’s boon from Russia’s intervention is no happy accident. Russia intervened in part due to Iranian lobbying:
Tehran apparently lobbied hard for Moscow to play a larger role in conflicts in Syria and Iraq, including by conducting airstrikes, according to a media report.
The head of Iran’s elite special forces unit Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Russia in August to forcefully argue the case for military intervention in the region by President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press said Thursday. Its story cited anonymous Iraqi government officials.
The AP said Soleimani met with Putin and they reviewed maps, surveillance photos and shared intelligence. Soleimani also met with senior Russian military officials to discuss plans for a joint intelligence-sharing center in Baghdad between Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia. That center is now operational.
So Russia will now fight ISIS, right? Maybe, but only as a secondary consequence to imposing Shi’ite rule across the entire expanse of Syria and Iraq, which means that the Sunni tribes will almost have to throw in with ISIS. And what happens to the pro-American Kurds in the north? Either they had better make sure to cuddle up to the mullahs or face their own isolation and potential destruction.
That’s hardly the only bad news coming from this vacuum-filling move by Putin in Syria and Iraq. Now that Russia has a military alliance with both Syria and Iran, just how likely will it be that Putin will agree to “snap back” sanctions on Iran if they cheat on the nuclear deal?
The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung puts the choice for Barack Obama in stark terms — act or yield (via Instapundit):
If Putin’s goal was “to get attention,” one senior official said, “then it was brilliant. . . . If it was to end the fighting in Syria, that’s where we think it’s a strategic error.” At the same time, the official said, “Russia is now going to be viewed as being anti-Sunni . . . attracting the ire of extremist groups,” including the Islamic State.
But others within the administration, and many outside experts, are increasingly worried that if President Obama does not take decisive action — such as quickly moving to claim the airspace over northwestern Syria and the Turkish border, where Russian jets are already operating — it is the United States that will suffer significant damage to both its reputation and its foreign policy and counterterrorism goals.
What DeYoung misses is that Obama has already yielded. The deal with Iran was a flashing neon sign that read RETREAT, especially when compounded with the exit from Iraq, exit timetables for Afghanistan being discussed openly, and Obama’s red-line flop in Syria. Obama left the vacuum, and Putin’s just filling it, both for Iran and for himself.