The Quds Force are a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp who were created during the Iran-Iraq conflict in the 80’s. They helped the Kurds in Northern Iraq in their war with Saddam’s regime. They have been – and still are – in Afghanistan, fighting against, and then joining with the Taliban. And now they are entering the Syrian conflict, at the hand of Russia who has been rapidly expanding their military presence in Syria in the last month or so. Quds head Qassem Soleimani met with Putin in Moscow in late July, and that meeting clearly included plans for a Russian arms build up in Syria. All in order to support Bashar al-Assad’s crumbling regime, a long-time Russian and former Soviet ally.

To have two of the (fairly) recent or current players in the Afghan endless conflict now in Syria does not bode well for any resolution in the near or even medium term. But it has been a long time since Syria has been well or bid well. This is the now-familiar Middle Eastern process of ruthless autocratic regimes being replaced with violent, bloodthirsty chaos and anarchy. Putin is hoping to preserve what’s left of the former, but it seems they’ve come late to the Syrian game. As bad as the violence in Syria and Iraq, the presence of a Russian military force is now Balkanizing Syria beyond even the divisions which are ripping it apart. Add in the islamic fault line that runs between Shiite and Sunni branches – Iran is Shiite and that includes the Quds Force; IS is a fanatical sect of the Sunni branch, similar to it’s elder cousin in terror, Al Qaeda – and anything that can get even worse in Syria likely will.

It is now 14 years on from 9/11 and 3 years on from Benghazi. To have Russian ambitions muscling their way into an already hellish cauldron of religious and political violence is to add a final dose of napalm to a raging fire. But that’s a quaint metaphor in 2015. It’s more like nuclear fallout. The Iran deal and Russia’s role as a monitor of Iran’s nuclear program add up to a perfect firestorm. Reducing levels of stockpiles of low-enriched uranium is like asking the Iranians and the Russians to play whack-a-mole as they shift enriched uranium around the country. And with Iran allowed to keep over 5,000 centrifuges that’s merely kicking the nuclear problem a short distance down the road. But as well, with Russia in Syria in alliance with Iran, the possibility of Iran gaining nuclear weapons takes on an added dimension. Is Putin trying to draw a curtain of fire around the Middle East? To revive his nostalgia for the Warsaw Pact? Imagine, Putin trying to build a Warsaw Pact scheme of alliances, while IS tries to revive a centuries-dead caliphate. Israel will have no choice but to – using Vietnam-era language – defend itself with extreme prejudice.

Comments