Iran said to be building military facilities in Syria near to Russian positions. Tehran's gambit is apparently based on assessment that Israel wouldn't dare strike for fear of tangling with Moscow. By AVI ISSACHAROFF
This is very, very troubling. Why would Putin allow his men and materiel to be put at unnecessary risk? If Israel and Russia have not worked out a modus vivendi, if and when Israel strikes at Iran, Russia, caught in crossfire, could be forced to defend itself. If Israel asserts its strategic interests, inadvertently clashing with Russian troops and weapons systems, how would it look to the world and how would Russia respond if little Israel comes out on top? Would Putin risk losing his macho stature? Would he strike back at an Israel that views war as an existential challenge? Is Russia up to a real expeditionary venture if the confrontation continues? How would the Trump administration react? Does Russia wish to create an Iranian hegemon in the Middle East?
Even if there is no confrontation with Israel, Russia seems unable (perhaps unwilling) to restrain Iranian expansion. It is quite conceivable that after the carnage of the Syrian civil war has subsided, Assad will be nothing more than a satrap (a very old Persian word) of the Shi'ite Islamic empire. Would Russia be content to become a barely tolerated nominal ally, belying its claim to superpower status?