Is Russia's Syria troops plan aimed also at protecting Iran's nuclear programme?
After consolidating Syria in the "Russian camp", the next obvious candidate is Iran. Do we in the West have the mental capacity to deal with what is going on?
If you couldn't see this coming, you'd have to have been as geo-politically blinkered as, well, practically the entire Western world. The latest news out of Russia is that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is offering to put Russian troops on the ground -- see? someone will; it's called a power vacuum -- to "monitor" Syria's chemical weapons disarmament programme.
As the BBC reported: "A large contingent of Russian troops would not be necessary - rather a small detachment of observers - Mr Lavrov told the pro-Kremlin First Channel."
Ah yes. Nothing more than a "small detachment". But what if the situation on the ground subsequently necessitates reinforcements and a small detachment becomes a rather bigger one? What if that rather bigger detachment needs some heavier weaponry? What if it turns out that what they really need is an air base? Mission creep, anyone?
No, not mission creep: clear, hard-headed strategic thinking. In other words, precisely what is lacking in the West.
Russian policy in the Middle East now has a dynamic all of its own and, in a sense, a quite logical one too. Having seen off the United States and its allies over Syria, they're looking to consolidate their position in the wider region.
The next, obvious candidate is Iran. Moscow built Iran's nuclear capacity and has made it quite clear that it opposes any potential military action to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does succeed in establishing a military presence in Syria, it may have more than its veto at the UN Security Council to see that its objectives are translated into reality.
Strategists in Israel and the United States would have a whole new headache to deal with.
At the very least, this makes it imperative that Lavrov's "offer" is rejected outright. But given the apparent inability of Western leaders, particularly President Obama, to think strategically and to act accordingly you'd have to be optimistic to believe they really have the mental capacity to deal with the unfolding situation.
Or am I guilty of scaremongering? Nothing to worry about? All will be fine?
We shall see. Watch this space.
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