Russia and Iran helped destroy the opposition forces in Syria, and secured President Bashar al-Assad’s political position. Canadian journalist Robert Fulford writes in his article for National Post that Assad scored “a perverse kind of outsourced victory.” He adds, “This, following the rules of mutually co-operative dictatorships, entitles Iran to the reward of a place in the newly pacified Syria, which it has not hesitated to seize. That puts it dangerously close to Israel. Next door, in fact.”
According to Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli defense minister, “We will not allow Shiite Iran to establish itself in Syria, and we will not allow it to transform Syria into an advance position against Israel.”
As well, a senior Israeli security official said, regarding an Iranian presence near Israel, “It can strike roots and eventually be expanded. We have reached the decision that Syria must not become an advance position in Iran’s conflict with Israel.”
Israel’s attacks on a missile plant and an Iranian military base, both in Syria, alongside Iran’s growing presence in Syria, suggest that Israel and Iran may already be engaged in an undeclared war. Per Israeli intelligence, there are already some 9,000 Shiite militia troops under Iranian command in Syria.
Iranian backed Hezbollah openly plays a role in Lebanon’s parliament, with a leading place in the cabinet, in this unusual governance system. Iran is also believed to sponsor the Houthi rebels in their war in Yemen, which has further impoverished the country. Reportedly, Iran’s Hezbollah militia trains the Houthis.
Meanwhile, the people of Iran suffer from an economy that is crumbling, with high unemployment and much of the county’s production shutting down. The historic nuclear deal, with the sanctions relief it provided, initially raised the hopes of Iranians who expected to quickly notice improvements in their quality of life. But by the end of 2015, tangible economic benefits had yet to materialize. It’s reported that ordinary Iranians are increasingly taking their grievances to the street, in protest of what they say are the regime’s plundering of their savings and its corrupt policies. Additionally, Iran’s human right abuses are garnering more and more international criticism.
Fulford goes on to say that, “The Middle East, always a cauldron of ambitions, fears and resentments, has grown even more dangerous in recent years. It requires an outside force to sort out the endless complexity of its profound disagreements. There was a time when the U.S. might have accomplished that, but internal conflicts have rendered the Americans helpless to undertake the task. Once the UN might have handled it, but the UN has lost its influence. So has the EU, despite some noble efforts. Putin’s Russia would have been eager to take on the job if only anyone trusted it.”
Without competent global leadership, the Middle East will suffer.