Putin catches out the West

September 17, 2015 11:59

Just like the declaration of the so-called Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the unprecedented deployment by Russia of senior military advisers, warships, tanks, fighter jets and even an ultra-modern anti-aircraft system to Syria caught Washington off-guard.

The move was carried out in co-ordination with Russia's close ally, Iran, which has sent hundreds of elite soldiers to fight alongside Syrian soldiers and Hizbollah-backed Shia militias.

However, the deployments followed leaks from Israeli defence sources regarding unusual Russian and Iranian military activity and, more importantly, a meeting in July between Russian officials and Iranian Quds Force general Qassem Suleimani. The latter has been instrumental in fighting Daesh in Iraq.

The joint military plan for Syria discussed by the Russians and Iranians has come to sudden fruition for a number of reasons.

The Syrian Army is exhausted and Daesh is, for the first time, threatening the Alawite-dominated coast, which is home to the Russian-leased naval port of Tartus. Jihadists are also inching towards Damascus.

Russia fears losing its only naval access to the Mediterranean as its paranoia regarding Nato encirclement reaches fever pitch, while Iran is eager to prevent the collapse of its last remaining Middle East ally and the subsequent massacre of its fellow Shia.

Meanwhile, Washington's plan to fund and train a new rebel force, to defeat both the Syrian regime and Daesh, has predictably come to nothing.

In recent weeks, Britain and other key Nato members have strongly hinted at a softening of the "Assad must go" rhetoric as they draw up plans for further air strikes against Daesh in Syria, rightly fearing that, if his regime were to fall, many more millions of refugees would flood into Europe.

Iran, of course, continues to play the Obama administration like a fiddle.

Its Republican Guard soldiers were dispatched just hours after the US President gained a Senate majority in favour of the Iranian nuclear deal. Having fought tooth and nail to convince the world that Iran's mullahs are to be trusted, any backtracking now by Mr Obama - such as criticising Iran's role in Syria - would be political suicide.

As has become tediously familiar in the region, US-backed calls for the removal of the dictator Mr Assad, with the goal of weakening Iran and Hizbollah, now seems more likely to have the opposite eventual outcome: an entrenched Alawite regime that is a political tool of the Iranians and with the full military backing of Russia.

At first glance, none of that is good news for Israel, which is seething at how Iran is further cementing ties with Hizbollah. Still, Daesh is committed to Israel's destruction, too, and the fall of the Assad regime could bring even greater dangers.

September 17, 2015 11:59

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