President Obama’s insistence on negotiating a nuclear treaty with Iran was opposed at virtually every turn by most experts on the subject. The majority of the United States Congress opposed it, as did most Americans. In fact, there was relatively little support for it, even in Iran.
By far, however, the strongest opposition came from Israel.
Staunch political opponents within the Israel Knesset — normally quick to pounce on areas of disagreement on international and regional matters — came together with one voice urging the world to reject the deal. Israel, the country most at risk and the country most knowledgeable about Iranian history, objectives and stated intent, made every attempt to get the world to see the danger – but, in the end, lost out to American political objectives and political gamesmanship.
In the current environment, altered as it has been by the agreement and the knowledge that conservative efforts in America can do little to stop it, analysts the world over are making every effort to determine Israel’s response.
Many expert analysts believe Israel will act quickly and launch a preemptive strike to take out Iran’s existing nuclear facilities, setting them back by only a few years.
Others believe Iran, expecting Israel to do just that, will proceed at full speed to their expected launch capability and strike Israel as soon as possible. Looking at the situation through the eyes of Israel or Iran, delay on the part of either could prove disastrous.
From a different, much more optimistic perspective, there is a possibility Iran will abide by the restrictions placed on them, and that Israel will simply sit back in expectation of a more docile Iran; an Iran which, in spite of the screams of death to America and the amplified screams of death to Israel, has given up on its religiously inspired and sanctioned mission to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Of course, the longer Israel waits to take action, the higher its risk.
Conversely, the longer Iran waits, the less their chances of a successful strike. Few are wagering on the optimistic perspective, and fewer still have faith in the contrived optimism of the American president or his emissary John Kerry.
While Obama has placed much faith in the success of this agreement, and seems to be dependent upon it to establish a peacemaker legacy for his administration, it seems absurd he has not considered the dilemma within which he has placed our strongest ally.
The potential for Israel to feel pressured into a preemptive strike, as well as the potential for Iran to feel pressured to use any nuclear capability they have as soon as possible, is just too great to have been missed by the administration. It’s logical to assume steps have been taken to thwart any such move by Israel.
Unsubstantiated reports have surfaced indicating Obama, through Secretary of State John Kerry, has cautioned Israel, hinting America will stand by Iran should Israel decide to take action in their own interest. The question is, however, how would Obama do this without risking condemnation from the free world?
Enter Russia: It is well known America has been aware for some time that Russia intended to take a much more active role in the Syrian conflict in support of Bashar Al Assad. Additionally, well known is the fact that Iran is a strong Russian ally. It would seem Obama has a readymade interdiction plan in place without his having to do anything but acquiesce to it. A few subtle smokescreens in the form of rebukes to Vladimir Putin and the media will likely defend Obama by reporting these rebukes as tantamount to “threats of retaliation.”
Obama now has Russia in a position to interdict an Israeli preemptive air strike for him. Russia has maintained a naval base in Syria for many years, and now with the establishment of an “airhead,” bothfacilities will permit Russia to rapidly expand the scope of its operations.
As recently as September 28 Russia is confirmed to have covertly flown approximately 30 fighter/interceptor aircraft into Syria. These aircraft are designed to intercept fighter aircraft such as that which Israel would use for a preemptive strike against Iran. They would also be used to support ground forces.
In addition, it’s been confirmed by US diplomatic and military sources that Russia, Iran and Syria have established a joint operational command and control team in Baghdad. Such an operational cell can coordinate Russian activities across Syria, Iran and into Iraq thus expanding and firmly establishing their sphere of influence in the region.
Most analysts and diplomats believe Russia is propping up the beleaguered Assad regime. The Kremlin has a great deal at stake if Assad falls, especially if Putin wants to expand Russian spheres of influence.
Furthermore, while the Obama Administration postures, offering lukewarm, ineffective diplomatic disapproval of the Kremlin’s build-up, and spins Vladimir Putin’s virtual nose-thumbing at Washington, events in the region are spiraling further and further out of control.
Russia has deployed, or is in the process of deploying, two air defense weapons systems into Syria. One system is the SA 22 which will be operated by Russian troops rather than Syrian forces. Although, the Syrians will be receiving the S-300PMU-2 system, its NATO designation is the SA 20. The SA 22 is a relatively new system that became operational in 2007. It combines missiles and guns and is more of a tactical air defense system.
The S-300 series entered service in 1979 and underwent a number of technological updates. Of note is the fact that the Russians recently closed an arms deal with Iran, selling the radical theocracy the same upgraded system.
Both systems are crucial when considering the implications of Russia deploying forces to Syria in support of the Assad regime and its close relationship with Iran especially with that nation rushing to develop nuclear weapons and launching systems. Syria and Iran now will have early warning and defense systems in the event Israel and/or Israel’s Arab allies launch a strike against Iran, their ancient Persian nemesis. Both systems will provide a strategic defense for Iran, potentially rendering preemptive strikes by Israel ineffective.
In addition to the missile systems being deployed in Iran and Syria, Russia is also emplacing significant Signals Intelligence and Electronic Warfare (SIGINT/EW) assets, suggesting more than one combined arms brigade task force will soon be heading for Syria.
Presently, Russia is establishing its airhead which includes security assets, rotary and fixed-wing tactical aircraft and interceptor fixed-wing planes while also deploying mechanized ground forces along with combat support and combat service support assets. Preparations for this latest Russian escalation began in late 2012 or early 2013 with the movement of Spetsnaz elements or Russia special operations forces. The Obama administration, by its own admission was aware of this move.
Further complicating matters, the elite of Russia’s special operations forces, the Zaslon — the highly-secretive special forces of the Foreign Intelligence Service — have also deployed to Syria and Iran, in part to assist the Assad regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Generally, Zaslon troops are direct action assets, but they do protect Russian diplomatic facilities, as was evidenced during the dying days of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, and again in 2006 when Russian personnel were killed by Islamic radicals.
The Russians have also hired mercenaries composed of former Russian soldiers apparently recruited from their paratrooper and commando type units. The mercenary force was recruited to protect Assad’s oil pipelines, but also were actively engaged in operations against anti-Assad forces.
There is little chance the West was shocked by the recent Russian deployment of significant ground and air assets into Syria. Historically, Russia’s build-up in Syria is not a great deal different from their escalation of 1979-80 in Afghanistan.
Russia’s escalation in Syria is obviously in support of the Assad regime, as Russia and Syria have maintained a strong alliance for the last sixty years. Of note is the recent Russian renewal and strengthening of alliances with Iran.
Since the 1850s, Russia and Iran have maintained good relations, even though current theocracy has labeled Russia, a “great Satan” on occasion. In the constantly changing scenario in the Middle East central Asia region, it appears to be Russia, Iran, Syria and the Iranian supported Hezbollah against Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — who have long been concerned about the intentions of their ancient Persian adversaries.
Most analysts agree there is little doubt Israel will launch preemptive aerial attacks on some of Iran’s nuclear facilities with assistance from the Arab states. This should explain why Russia is deploying additional troops with emphasis on air-defense and SIGINT/EW assets, and the sale of current air defense systems to Syria and Iran.
Russia’s missile systems, including those Obama allowed Iran to purchase from them, are now on the ground in Syria and will soon be operational and manned by Russian experts. Ostensibly in place to battle ISIS, they also are in perfect position to thwart an Israeli strike. Our ally Israel is prevented from defending itself, and all the while, Obama’s hands are clean.
Nothing good will come from this for Israel. Unless a miracle happens and Iran decides to become the kindly neighbor in the Middle East’s version of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, bad things are going to happen in that part of the world … and our good friends, the best friends America has ever had in this region … are going to suffer. It is unfathomable to most of us that our own president has been instrumental in such a horror.
Contributing Writer Godfrey Garner is a veteran special operations counterintelligence officer who retired from US Special Forces in 2006. He served two military tours and six civilian government related tours in Afghanistan. His work there most recently was as a counter-corruption analyst. Garner is author of, Danny Kane and the Hunt for Mullah Omar, and, The Balance of Exodus.
Rusty Harris is a 28 year veteran of US Army Special Forces in intelligence and in an operational capacity with experience at the JFK Special Warfare Center as an instructor. He deployed to three continents and eighteen countries operationally, including the Caribbean-Central, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. He was operational in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in intelligence for Special Forces teams. He attended The University of Kentucky studying history and Spanish, and is a graduate of 30 military schools of intelligence and special operations. He has taught public school and served as a high risk threat analyst and executive protection trainer in high threat regions in Latin America. He has authored several articles on the American Civil War.