Archive for the ‘Iran and Assad’ category

Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria

April 18, 2018

At a time of economic hardship, Tehran has provided billions of dollars to help Assad crush Islamist rebels. The question is why.

Karim Sadjadpour Apr 16, 2018 Via The Atlantic

Source Link: Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria

{Never forget, it is Assad who is to blame for Iran’s military expansion in Syria. – LS}

“What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” President Trump asked Russia and Iran Friday night after launching air strikes against the Syrian regime. “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.”

Despite his speechwriters’ best efforts, if there is one thing Donald Trump and Iran share it is an inability to be shamed. {The media cannot resist taking a stab at Trump, no matter what. – LS} Over the last seven years no country has done more, financially and militarily, to back the Bashar al-Assad regime’s mass murder of Syrians than the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocracy that claims to rule from a moral high ground. Within hours of joint American, French, and British targeted military strikes in Syria, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called Assad to pledge his solidarity.

At a time of great economic hardship in Iran, Tehran has provided billions of dollars to arm, train, and pay tens of thousands of Arab, Afghan, and Pakistani Shia militants help Assad crush Sunni Islamist rebels. Tehran, the victim of heinous chemical weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein three decades ago, has provided Assad the means to deliver these same weapons, while simultaneously denying that he uses them. The question is why?

Distilled to its essence, Tehran’s steadfast support for Assad is not driven by the geopolitical or financial interests of the Iranian nation, nor the religious convictions of the Islamic Republic, but by a visceral and seemingly inextinguishable hatred for the state of Israel. As senior Iranian officials like Ali Akbar Velayati, a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have commonly said, “The chain of Resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the new Iraqi government and Hamas passes through the Syrian highway. … Syria is the golden ring of the chain of resistance against Israel.” So long as the 78-year-old Khamenei remains in power, this hatred will justify Tehran’s continued commitment of blood and treasure to support Assad’s use of all means necessary—including chemical weapons—to preserve his rule.

Though Israel has virtually no direct impact on the daily lives of Iranians, opposition to the Jewish state has been the most enduring pillar of Iranian revolutionary ideology. Whether Khamenei is giving a speech about agriculture or education, he invariably returns to the evils of Zionism. “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off,” Khamenei said in a 2012 speech. “We will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world.” Given Israel’s military superiority, Khamenei’s stated strategy is not Israel’s short-term annihilation, but its long-term political dissolution. “If Muslims and Palestinians unite and all fight,” he commonly says, “the Zionist regime will not be in existence in 25 years.”

In ostensibly trying to avenge what he portrays as one injustice, however, Tehran has helped Assad perpetrate a far greater one. The number of Syrian deaths since 2011 (an estimated 500,000, though the UN has stopped counting) is more than five times greater than the approximately 90,000 Arabs (roughly 20-30 percent of them Palestinian) killed in the last 70 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while more than twice as many Syrians (12 million) as Palestinians have been displaced.* Indeed since 2011 far more Palestinians have been killed by Assad (nearly 3,700) than by Israel, including by chemical weapons.  “If their way to return Palestinians back home is displacing millions of Syrians,” said my friend Kassem Eid, one of around half a million Palestinian refugees who grew up in Syria, and a victim of one of Assad’s chemical weapons attack, “I don’t want to go back to Palestine.”

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The Iran-Assad alliance is a study in contradictions. While Iranian advocates for secularism are viciously repressed, Assad routinely says, “The most important thing is that Syria should be secular.” Iranian women who defy the mandatory hijab are subject to violence and imprisonment, while Hezbollah fighters celebrate military victories in Damascus nightclubs alongside scantily-clad escorts. While nude Renaissance art is censored in Europe so as not to offend the religious sensibilities of visiting Iranian officials, Assad’s forces have deliberately used rape as a tool of repression against opponents. Khamenei implores his subjects to buy Iranian products to boost economic self-sufficiency, while Tehran’s largesse has helped subsidize Assad’s wife Asmaa—an unveiled fashionista—sustain what looks like her primary passion: shopping in London.

From the outset of the Syrian uprising in 2011, Assad and Iran assiduously sought to crush moderate opposition and indulge radical Islamists in order to engineer a no-win proposition for the West: Assad or jihadists. Yet Tehran has tried to portray its role in Syria as an existential battle for Iran, against the forces of Sunni radicalism. “Syria is Iran’s 35th province,” said Mehdi Taeb, a head of the Revolutionary Guards intelligence wing and a close advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “If we lose Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran.” While Assad’s collapse would undoubtedly be a strategic blow to the Islamic Republic, Iran has been a nation-state for virtually 2,500 years before now without the benefit of a Syrian vassal state. Just as Russia outlived the USSR, so will Iran outlive the Islamic Republic.

Today the Tehran-Damascus axis has come to resemble a mutually exploitative love affair: Iran likes Syria for its body (which borders Israel and serves as Tehran’s waystation to Hezbollah), and Syria likes Iran for its money. In exchange for Iranian largesse, Assad has forsaken his sovereignty. “Syria is occupied by the Iranian regime,” said former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab. “The person who runs the country is not Bashar al-Assad but [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander] Qassem Suleimani.” As for the other half of the couple, Tehran’s staggering expenditures in Syria—estimated to be several billion annually—have become a growing cause of popular resentment amidst deteriorating economic conditions in Iran. During anti-government protests last January in Iran, residents of Mashhad—a large Shiite Shrine town—chanted “Leave Syria alone, think about us.”

Though Iranians feel the financial costs of the Syria war, Tehran has outsourced the human costs. Iran’s 40,000-strong Shia foreign legion—composed of Lebanese, Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis—have endured five times more casualties in Syria than Iranians. Afghan militias—known as the Fatemiyoun Division—have paid the highest price. Most are not enthusiastic holy warriors but undocumented manual laborers, some underage, whom the Iranian Revolutionary Guards present with an offer they can’t refuse: 10-year residency permits in Iran—mitigating the risk of forced deportation—and $800 per month to go to Syria, purportedly to protect the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zainab, a granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, outside Damascus. Lacking basic training and often illiterate, these Afghan troops are instead used as initial assault cannon fodder. “Sometimes we had no supplies,” said one former Afghan fighter, “no water, no bread—hungry and thirsty in the middle of the desert.” For Palestine.

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The burden of defending Iran’s role in Syria to Western audiences has fallen on the shoulders of Tehran’s U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Among Zarif’s considerable talents is an ability, and willingness, to tell brazen untruths with tremendous conviction. Shortly after Zarif insisted Iran had “no boots on the ground” in Syria, for example, the Revolutionary Guards announced their 1,000th casualty. In the aftermath of each chemical weapons attack by Assad, Zarif has systematically absolved Assad of responsibility by following the same playbook:

First, remind everyone that Saddam Hussein—backed by Western powers—used chemical weapons against Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. In other words, Syrian children are not the victims; Iran is still the victim. Second, ambiguously condemn chemical weapons use “by anyone.” This allows Zarif’s Western allies to acknowledge his humanity. When pressed, however, Zarif has always claimed that it was the Syrian opposition—backed by American and Israel—that has used chemical weapons, not Assad. Zarif has paid little reputational cost for this whitewashing; the Nobel Peace Prize committee continues to mention him as an annual nominee.

After seven years, and with billions of dollars of sunk costs, an assertive Russian partner, and a U.S. president that aspires to withdraw from the region, Tehran feels vindicated in Syria. It is alleged to be building permanent military bases outside Damascus, with armed drones capable of reaching Israel. Periodic, limited U.S. military strikes against Assad’s weapons depots are not likely to change this calculus. Hopes that Assad’s mass repression or use of chemical weapons would compel Tehran to reassess its support have been proven wrong. Just as Iranians today frequently evoke how Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran over three decades ago, Syrians will have similarly long memories of Iranian complicity.

While Friday night’s missile shower illustrated the clear power asymmetry between Washington and Tehran, the last seven years have also illustrated the two countries’ asymmetry of commitment in Syria. In contrast to Donald Trump—who did not care about Syria last week and will likely not care about Syria next week {Again, the media cannot resist taking a stab at Trump, no matter what. – LS}—Ayatollah Khamenei’s opposition to Israel, and his commitment to Syria, has not wavered for four decades. Like Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick, the 78-year-old Khamenei will take this pursuit to the grave with him.

In the 1998 movie American History X, a vivid portrait of America’s neo-Nazi movement—America’s Islamist equivalent—Edward Norton’s character is a young radical sent to prison for committing a hate crime. When a sympathetic former teacher visits him in prison to try to talk sense, he remains intransigent. The teacher’s simple parting comment, however, was powerful enough to cause Norton to reflect. “Just ask yourself one thing,” said the teacher.  “Has anything you’ve done made your life better?

Amidst all the carnage and destruction in Syria, a similar question could be posed to Khamenei. Has anything that Iran has done in Syria, or elsewhere for that matter, advanced its goal of destroying Israel and liberating Palestine? Khamenei appeared to contemplate this question recently. “Today the body of Muslim world is severely wounded,” he said. “Enemies of Islam have managed to baffle the Muslim world by staging war and discord, giving the enemy more security in the region. In Western Asia, the Zionist regime thrives in a safe haven, while Muslims are posed against one another.” Long live Palestine.   {LLP??? – LS}

 

 

 

Russian supply of S-300 systems to Syria major threat to IAF

April 18, 2018



Since the Russians entered the bloody conflict in 2015, the Syrian regime has become more brazen in its responses to Israeli strikes.

By Anna Ahronheim April 15, 2018 06:35 The Jerusalem Post

Source Link: Russian supply of S-300 systems to Syria major threat to IAF

{If Assad’s upgraded air defense system is successful in shooting down an Israeli pilot, I suspect all hell will break loose. -LS}

With Russia considering supplying the S-300 surface-to- air missile systems to Syria, Israel’s air superiority is at risk of being challenged in one of its most difficult arenas.

With a de-confliction mechanism in place with Russia over Syria in order to avoid any unwanted conflict with the superpower, Israel has largely had free reign over Syrian skies to carry out strikes on targets deemed a threat to the Jewish state.

Over the course of Syria’s seven-year-long civil war, Israel has publicly admitted to having struck over 100 Hezbollah convoys and other targets in Syria, while keeping mum on hundreds of other strikes that have been attributed to the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that strikes will continue when “we have information and operational feasibility.”

Syrian air defenses are largely Soviet-era systems, comprised of SA-2s, SA-5s and SA-6s, as well as more sophisticated tactical surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17 and SA-22 systems. The most up-to-date system that Moscow has supplied to the Syrian regime is the short range Pantsir S-1, which has shot down drones and missiles that have flown over Syria.

Russian chief of main operational directorate Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said Saturday evening that “In the past year and a half, Russia has fully restored Syria’s air defense system and continues to further upgrade it.”

Moscow had “refused” to supply the surface-to-air missile system to Syria a few years ago after “taking into account the pressing request of some of our Western partners.”

But following US-led air strikes on the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure, Russia considers “it possible to return to an examination of this issue, not only in regard to Syria but to other countries as well,” he said.

The advanced S-300 would be a major upgrade to Syrian air defenses and pose a threat to Israeli jets as the long-range missile defense system can track objects like aircraft and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 kilometers.

A full battalion includes six launcher vehicles, with each vehicle carrying four missile containers for a total of 24 missiles, as well as command- and-control and long-range radar detection vehicles.

The system’s engagement radar, which can guide up to 12 missiles simultaneously, helps guide the missiles toward the target. With two missiles per target, each launcher vehicle can engage up to six targets at once.

Since the Russians entered the bloody conflict in 2015, the Syrian regime has become more brazen in its responses to Israeli strikes.

Last March, Israeli jets carrying out air strikes against several targets in Syria were targeted with three anti-aircraft missiles with a 200-kilogram warhead. The missiles were shot down by the Arrow advanced missile-defense system in the first usage of the system in a combat situation.

In February, Syria succeeded – after launching a salvo of between 15-20 anti-aircraft missiles – in bringing down an Israeli F-16 (which crashed inside Israeli territory) that was carrying out a strike. Both pilots ejected from the jet and have since returned to duty.

If the Russians supply the advanced S-300 to Syria, Israeli jets may face these scenarios more often. And it could be just a matter of time before an Israeli pilot is killed.

 

 

Syria attack: ‘Huge blast’ at Iranian military base in Aleppo after ‘fighter jet attack’

April 15, 2018

By MARK CHANDLER
PUBLISHED: 22:10, Sat, Apr 14, 2018 | UPDATED: 22:29, Sat, Apr 14, 2018
Via Express

Source Link: Syria attack: ‘Huge blast’ at Iranian military base in Aleppo after ‘fighter jet attack’

{Shouldn’t there be proof first?….just kidding. – LS}

A HUGE blast was heard near an Iranian military base in Syria this evening, amid unconfirmed reports it was attacked by unidentified aircraft.

The base was in the Jabal Azzan region south of Aleppo, a Syrian government-controlled rural region.

People claimed to have seen explosions at the site and there are unconfirmed reports of casualties.

Syrian media reported it was attacked by Israeli aircraft this evening.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reported the blast but said the cause was unknown.

Media linked to Hezbollah later claimed there had been no airstrike, blaming explosives detonating in a warehouse.

Last week, Russia blamed Israel for an attack on a Syrian airbase that killed at least 12 people.

Moscow claimed morning that two Israeli fighter jets had launched the attack on the T4 base.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the F-15 planes had carried out the strikes from Lebanese air space.

And it claimed Syrian air defence systems had shot down five of eight missiles fired.

The Israeli military made no comment on the claims.

It comes after forces from the US, UK and France launched a series of strikes against alleged chemical weapons facilities in the country overnight.

The western powers said on Saturday their missile attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles overnight in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago, targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities including a research and development in Damascus’ Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.

The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and his superpower ally Russia, but the three countries said the strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.

The Tragedy of Syria: All Red Lines Have Been Crossed

February 28, 2018

by Julie Lenarz | 02.27.18 12:23 pm via The Tower

Source Link:
The Tragedy of Syria: All Red Lines Have Been Crossed

{The butcher is still hard at work. – LS}

What’s happening in Ghouta is a war crime. A blood orgy orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, a modern-day Caligula figure, and his criminal patrons in Iran and Russia.

More than 500 men, women and children have been killed since last week in the eastern enclave, where activists over the weekend reported a suspected poison gas attack.

According to 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, the Assad regime has used internationally banned chemical agents nearly 200 times throughout the civil war. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s leading chemical weapons watchdog, opened an investigation on Sunday into attacks in Ghouta to determine whether banned munitions had been used.

The unspeakable suffering we are witnessing in Ghouta is the result of a conscious strategy of besiegement, systematic blocking of humanitarian aid, and the illegal destruction of civilian infrastructure – hospitals, schools and kindergartens have all been bombed into the ground.

If this story sounds familiar, that is because we have heard it all before. We have seen it in the ruins of Aleppo, on the killing fields of Cambodia, the poisoned ghost towns in Iraqi Kurdistan, the sieges of Sarajevo and Srebrenica, and the desert death camps of Darfur.

“Never again,” the shell-shocked international community pledged — again, and again – and again — in the wake of these atrocities. And yet the same horrors are now being inflicted on the people of Ghouta and we are reacting with much the same impotence.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), corrupted by the malign agendas of Russia and China with no regard for human suffering, has long been reduced to issuing empty mantras ranging from being “concerned” to “very concerned” and, lately, “gravely concerned.”

But their condemnation of crimes committed against innocent civilians does not feed the children on the streets of Ghouta. It does not keep warm the families that must now sleep in the rubble of their homes, or help pull the injured from under the ruins of the city.

Look closely, if you spent the last decade pontificating about US imperialism in the Middle East, sharing uncritically the absurd spectacle of conspiracy theories brought to you by Russia Today, Iranian Press TV and other state controlled outlets with hostile agendas.

Syria is a place where more people died than in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya combined – it’s a lawless Wild Wild West of international affairs where the Assads, Khameneins, Putins and Erdogans of this world kill at their pleasure.

The UNSC called for the 30-day truce in all of Syria on Saturday to allow aid deliveries and medical evacuations in the war-torn regions. But Iran and the Syrian regime continued attacks on Damascus suburbs held by “terrorists” the Iranian military chief of staff said on Sunday.

Everyone is now a terrorist. Every hospital bombed a secret weapons storage. Every school destroyed a recruitment center. Every use of poisonous gas a false flag operation by the rebels.

The industrial-scale killing machinery in Syria is the unhappy consequence of American isolationism and non-intervention, with the result that, eight years down the line, the murderous dictator is neither dead nor imprisoned, but still gassing his own people.

The Assad regime has recaptured large swathes of Syrian territory. The mullahs have turned the country into a permanent Iranian military base. And Russia is dictating the way things are going.

America isn’t perfect. Far from it. But it’s still an unrivaled beacon of light in the darkness of international relations that do not offer a more just and moral superpower to fill its place.

Eight years into the civil war, Syria has turned into the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time. It is too late for the people of Ghouta. They will follow the restless souls of Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kurdistan in a long line of victims abandoned by the international community. All red lines have been crossed. 

 

STEINITZ: ASSAD IN DANGER IF HE ALLOWS IRAN TO ATTACK ISRAEL FROM SYRIA

February 13, 2018

BY HERB KEINON FEBRUARY 13, 2018 01:33 Jerusalem Post

Source Link:
STEINITZ: ASSAD IN DANGER IF HE ALLOWS IRAN TO ATTACK ISRAEL FROM SYRIA

{I wonder just how much sway he has in all this. – LS}

“Assad and Hezbollah are the same, and if there will be an attack against us, we will not be obligated only to act against the the source of the attack.”

Israel views Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as the weak link in the Iranian-Shi’a axis, and Assad should keep that in mind when weighing whether or not to let Iran set up military bases in his country or transfer precision missiles to Hezbollah, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday.

Steinitz – a member of the 12-member security cabinet that discussed on Sunday possible next steps following Saturday’s incursion by an Iranian drone and the ensuing downing of an Israeli F-16 – hinted broadly in an Army Radio interview that Israel would act against Assad if Iran crosses the red lines that Israel has established.

 The first red line, he said, was turning Syrian into a “forward” military base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, including intelligence, naval and air-force bases.

The second red line, he said, was that Syria would enable Iran to upgrade Hezbollah’s missile capabilities by turning those missiles into precision weapons that would constitute a much greater threat to Israel than they currently are.

Today there is no difference between Syria and Lebanon, Steinitz said, and the Syrian army and Hezbollah are two arms doing Iran’s bidding.

“Assad and Hezbollah are the same, and if there will be an attack against us, we will not be obligated to act only against the source of the attack,” he said. “We will reserve the right to choose the right front.”

For example, Steinitz said, “the Assad regime is the weak link in the Iranian-Shi’a axis, and I think Assad should think very well whether he wants to turn Syria into a forward base for Iran or allow precision missiles through Syria to Lebanon, because he himself, his regime, his government and his army can be hurt in that situation.”

Meanwhile, Britain joined the US on Monday in standing behind Israel following Saturday’s developments in the North. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued a statement saying the United Kingdom is “concerned at developments over Israel’s border with Syria this weekend.”

“We support Israel’s right to defend itself against any incursions into its territory,” the statement said. “We are concerned at the Iranian actions, which detract from efforts to get a genuine peace process underway. We encourage Russia to use its influence to press the regime and its backers to avoid provocative actions and to support de-escalation in pursuit of a broader political settlement.”

No such similar statement has been issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.

On Sunday, the White House issued a statement saying the US supports Israel’s “right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria.”

This is a message that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to deliver when he goes to Lebanon later this week as part of a five-county tour of the Mideast, including Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

On the first stop of his tour in Cairo on Monday, however, the focus was on other issues, with Tillerson saying the US supports Egypt’s fight against Islamic State. But he reiterated that the US advocates free and fair elections there.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Tillerson said Washington remains committed to achieving a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Regarding US-Egypt relations, Tillerson said: “We agreed we would continue our close cooperation on counterterrorism measures.

The Egyptian people should be confident that the US commitment to continue to support Egypt in its fight against terrorism and bringing security to the Egyptian people is steadfast.”

The Egyptian military campaign comes ahead of a presidential election in March, in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seeking a second term in office.

Asked about the election, Tillerson said the United States supports a credible, transparent election in Egypt and Libya.

“We have always advocated for free and fair elections, transparent elections – not just in Egypt but in any country,” he said.

“The US is always going to advocate for an electoral process that respects the rights of citizens,” Tillerson told journalists, adding that the US was also keen to continue supporting Egypt in its economic recovery.

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria

April 24, 2017

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria, Washington Free Beacon, , April 24, 2017

(Please see also, Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway. — DM)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) looks on after a joint press conference after their talks in Moscow on April 14, 2017./ AFP PHOTO  ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

***********************

Iran and Russia are moving closer together in their military alliance, working to boost ties and coordination in Syria and elsewhere in the region following the U.S. decision to launch a military strike in Syria, according to regional reports and experts.

Iran’s defense minister is slated to visit Moscow at the end of the month to discuss increased military ties, a move that is meant to deter U.S. action in the region and show a sign of increased force, according to regional experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Tehran-Moscow axis has been growing since the landmark Iran nuclear deal, with Russia making good on a series of weapons deliveries, including the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system. The two countries have been signing an additional number of military deals in recent months and that cooperation is likely to increase in light of the Trump administration’s decision to launch strikes against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being backed by both Russia and Iran.

Iranian leaders have signaled in recent days that the alliance with Russia is a top priority going forward and that a number of new military deals are in the works.

“The visit by Iranian [President Hassan] Rouhani that took place on March 28 was another step toward developing extensive cooperation between Moscow and Tehran,” Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei was quoted in the country’s state-controlled press.

“We hope that we will witness even broader bilateral ties across all areas in the future,” Sanaei said during an event last week marking the Iranian Army Day.

Sanaei also celebrated the recent delivery by Russia of the S-300 missile system, which Tehran had been coveting for some time. The system is viewed by Iran as a major deterrence factor aimed at intimidating U.S. forces in the region.

The delivery of the S-300 system to Iran is a sign that Russia has an interest in bolstering Tehran’s military might, Sanaei said.

Since signing a massive military deal in 2015 with Russia, “important steps have been taken to strengthen bilateral relations in the area of defense,” Sanaei said. “One such step was the delivery of S-300 missile systems to Iran. This is an indicator of mutual trust in defense cooperation.”

As Iran’s defense minister gears up to visit Moscow, regional experts predict that the military ties between the countries will only increase as Assad comes under greater international pressure.

However, the alliance between the countries remains fragile and largely one of convenience.

“Russia and Iran have a similar goal in keeping Assad in power at all costs,” Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, told the Free Beacon. “However, how each perceives the end state in Syria and the other’s role in that future is one of the big questions in the relationship.”

In the short term, both Iran and Russia will aggressively work to “show a united front after America’s first strike on the Assad regime,” Zilberman said. “This is what we are seeing in the flurry of activity, but it is yet to be seen if anything of substance comes out of these talks.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at FDD, said that Russia views Iran as a chief counter to U.S. power in the region. The alliance between the countries is likely to strengthen as long as Moscow can use Tehran to offset American influence in the region.

“Russia can and will likely continue to use Iran instrumentally in its larger strategic competition with the United States,” Ben Taleblu said. “One wonders however, how the leadership of the Islamic Republic, which derided the late Shah of Iran for his closeness to the U.S. are able to justify—legally, politically, and even spiritually, the concessions they have made to befriend Russia. As a reminder, no country has taken more territory away from Iran and threatened its sovereignty in the past half millennia than Russia.”

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

“For the past two years Tehran has been drawing closer to Moscow,” Ben Taleblu explained. “Iran will look to Russia to help it drive the U.S. from the region, as well as support its nuclear development under the auspices of the [Iran deal], and engage in a highly selective modernization process for its military. Russia and China will likely become the two largest sources for arms as a UN-mandated arms ban is set to expire in 2020.”

Mission accomplished in Syria

April 12, 2017

Mission accomplished in Syria, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May. April 12, 2017

(Accomplished or just begun? — DM)

Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

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If you’re still unsure about whether U.S. President Donald Trump did the right thing when he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week, consider the alternative.

He knew that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had yet again used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians, women and children prominent among them. He knew that Iran and Russia had enabled this atrocity, as they have many others. He knew he had two choices.

He could shrug, instruct his U.N. ambassador to deliver a tearful speech calling on the “international community” to do something, and then go play a round of golf. Or he could demonstrate that the United States still has the power and the grit to stand up to tyrants and terrorists, thereby beginning to re-establish America’s deterrent capability.

In other words, this was what Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz would call a no-brainer. (Well, loosely translated.) A mission was accomplished. Do harder missions lie ahead? Yes, of course. But I suspect Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have made that abundantly clear to the new president.

We now know for certain that Russia failed to live up to its 2013 commitment to ensure that Assad surrendered all his illegal chemical weapons under the deal it brokered. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acerbically questioned whether that was the result of complicity or incompetence or whether Russia allowed itself to be duped by Assad.

The strike ordered by President Trump was not “unbelievably small” — then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of the punishment then-President Barack Obama decided not to impose in response to Assad’s earlier use of chemical weapons. It was big enough to make clear that American diplomats are again carrying big sticks. (For Obama to insist that diplomacy and force are alternatives was patently absurd.)

Conveniently, Trump was dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the strikes occurred. It’s fair to speculate that Xi is today thinking harder about American requests to rein in Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator whose drive to acquire nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the American mainland has become what Tillerson called an “imminent” threat.

Having passed his first major national security test, Trump is now obliged to demonstrate firmness and consistency. What plans might the Pentagon have on the shelf to respond to further provocations? The next round of Tomahawk missiles could permanently ground Assad’s air force. That would make it easier to then establish no-fly zones. If such measures do not alter the calculations of Assad and his Iranian and Russian patrons, consideration could be given to leveling his defense, intelligence and command-and-control centers as well.

Another idea under discussion: setting up safe havens, or, to use a better term, “self-protection zones,” for those fleeing the Syrian regime and various jihadist forces, Sunni and Shiite alike. Israel and Jordan could help the inhabitants of such areas adjacent to their borders defend themselves. The Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis could contribute to the cost. Might this lead to the partition of Syria? Most likely, but it’s difficult to imagine a “political solution” that would not include such readjustments.

All this, while useful and perhaps even necessary, should be seen as insufficient. Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe but only one piece in a much larger geopolitical puzzle. Sooner rather than later, the Trump administration needs to develop what Obama refused to contemplate: a comprehensive and coherent strategy to counter the belligerent, imperialist and supremacist forces that have emerged from the Middle East and are now spreading like weeds around the world.

The Islamic State group will of course need to be driven off the lands on which it has attempted to establish a caliphate. After that, its terrorists will have to be hunted, along with those of al-Qaida, wherever they hide (e.g., Egypt where, over the weekend, they bombed two Coptic Christian churches).

But — and this is crucial — accomplishing these missions must not serve to further empower Iran’s jihadist rulers, who dream of establishing an expanding imamate, the Shiite version of a caliphate.

Most immediately, Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

That the United States cannot solve all the world’s problems was one of Trump’s campaign themes. But the implication is not necessarily, as some of his supporters hoped, that he would turn a blind eye to all atrocities and threats not already within America’s borders.

In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and communists, enemies whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.

In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. If Trump has grasped that within his first 100 days, he’s not off to such a bad start.