Many people, including myself, have often wondered about the Russian strategy in Syria, now that the war is for the most part over.
We all know that Assad is no boy scout; we also know that the ISIS fighters, who swelled the ranks of the rebels—are genocidal maniacs driven by an evil vision of Jihad. Such people do not merely kill, they kill with chemical weapons, they burn people alive, crucify non-Muslim children, feed their kids to their captured parents—the list of atrocities almost makes Assad look like a human being.
It reminds me of the old story—perhaps you heard of it.
Once an outlaw lost his brother who died after trying to rob a bank in a gunfight. The outlaw’s surviving brother tells a minister, “You had better say some nice things about my brother, or else I’ll kill ya!” The minister asked, “What should I say about him?” The outlaw said, “Make him sound like a saint!” At the funeral, the minister said, “Clive was a bank-robber, a cattle-rustler, a rapist, a thief, a murderer—he was someone who would even steal candy from a baby. But, compared to his brother, Clive was a saint!”
While Assad has plenty of blood on his hands, his relationship with Israel has for the most part been relatively good. Israel prefers Assad to the leaders of ISIS or other Muslim fanatics. There are many Red-Army veterans living in Israel (see the picture)–in fact many Russians citizens.
The moral of the story is simply this: the devil you know is better than the one who is worse. The fact that the Russians are in Syria is not necessarily a bad thing. Putin can bring considerable stability in Syria—maybe in time even put in someone who is better than Assad.
But what about the Iranians? Assad had no problem using Hezbollah and the Iranian military to help defeat the rebels. But Hezbollah’s motivation had little to do with their love of Assad or the Russians. Their ambitions are much more regional-minded. Sure, they hope to use Syria as a platform to attack Israel, but they also wish to surround the Saudis in their effort to take over Muslim holy sites—especially the city of Mecca, the Crown-Jewels of the Muslim world.
Iran’s bellicose ambitions are hardly subtle. Their tolerance for the Russians—a temporary inconvenience.
Israel, as you know, will not let Iran realize their ambitions. Already, the Israelis have destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian weaponry. Have you notice that the Russians, for the most part, have been relatively silent. Netanyahu has, from what it appears, a reasonably good relationship with Putin.
Of course, appearances are deceptive—, especially in the Middle East.
However, Putin does not want to see an Iranian-Israeli war in Syria. It simply is not in Russia’s interest. And the reason for this is because of a political principle that the Midrash has long taught: “Two kings cannot share the same crown.”
It’s sort of like, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
And that is the situation brewing in Syria today between the Iranians and the Russians. Just last night, Putin made the statement, “Foreign troops—including Iran and Hezbollah should depart Syria when the civil war ends.”
Of course, he might have included the Turkish troops, for as Erdogan is really the “third king” of our Midrash, whose ambition is to reestablish the Ottoman Empire.
Put in different terms, “Three kings cannot share the same crown.”
And how did the Iranians take Putin’s remark? The Islamic Republic responds, “no one can force Iran to do anything. Those who should leave Syria are the ones who entered it without consent. We will remain and keep supporting Syria so long as it needs our help,” he added, according to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.
And with this revelation—something that I have personally observed for months—it ought to be clear that the Putin is prepared to give Netanyahu free reign to get rid of the Iranians as an occupying power.
Eventually, though, the political entropy between the Russians and the Iranians will manifest itself—sort of like spurned lovers.
As far as Assad goes, the Russians had better guard him closely, for eventually, the Iranians will try to replace him with a person of their own choosing.
I am betting the Russians and the Israelis will send the Iranians packing–especially as President keeps the pressure on the Iranians, who are rapidly becoming the pariah everyone hates.