In a recent post I wrote the following:
And so once the “shock and awe” phase has failed to produce any signs of shock or of awe – what happens next? (…) an Anglo invasion of Syria might well trigger an influx of Shia volunteers from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon; that would also offer Iran the perfect opportunity to “send in volunteers” (remember that the students who took over the US embassy in Tehran were also ‘volunteer civilian students’ and that the revolutionary government denied having any control over them) (…) consider the following: the fact that the US or NATO cannot send troops hardly means that the Iranians, the Iraqis or Hezbollah could not do that. In fact, what could the US do if, say, Moqtada al-Sadr decided to send some of his followers to fight the Takfiris in Syria? Protest and threaten, but there is really nothing much else they could do (…) This is the huge weakness in the US/NATO posture: while the US/NATO/CENTCOM capabilities to engage in a massive bombing and cruise missile strikes are truly formidable, they have nothing else to follow up with. Everybody in the Middle-East knows that the Americans do not have what it takes to go tow-to-toe against an insurgency. These are the folks who used B-2 stealth bombers over Afghanistan but who a full decade later failed to even control most of Kabul in daytime.
As is so often the case, the events on the ground actually developed even much faster than I thought.
I can confirm on the basis of information received from three different sources that the Iranians have begun moving a large military force into Syria. One of these sources I can quote: Robert Fisk who wrote the article “Iran to Send 4,000 Troops to Aid President Assad Forces in Syria” for the Independent. There is also evidence of volunteers from Lebanon.
I think that we can safely make the assumption that the 4000 Iranians sent to Syria are just a beginning and that Tehran can send as many
soldiers as needed. I can also add here that we are not talking about well-meaning civilians here, but highly trained Pasdars – you can think of them as “the people who trained Hezbollah”. One of my best sources tells me that this entire operations is closely coordinated with Russian specialists while another source even mentions Russians on the ground with the Iranians.
It therefore appears that Tehran has decided to preempt a US/NATO attack on Syria by moving in forces even before the shooting start. I have to sincerely say that this is nothing short of a brilliant move as there is nothing at all the Anglo Empire can do to stop this at this point in time and once the full force is in place it will be impossible to target it separately.
I can add here that the idea of sending in “international brigades” has been discussed in specific Russian and Ukrainian military circles, but that it is likely that the Russian authorities want to keep the visible presence of ethnic Russian to a minimum. What they can do is send it Russian ethnic groups which do not externally appear as Slavs. I am thinking, believe it or not, of anti-Wahabi Chechens who are fully integrated into the Russian military intelligence service GRU (the Russians already did something similar once in Lebanon).
Both Russian and Iranian sources confirm that the two government are very closely cooperating on this entire operation and that uninterrupted close consultations are taking place.
In the meantime, most Hezbollah units are withdrawn from Syria and repositioned to defend Lebanon from a possible Israeli attack.
Bottom line: it is already becoming clear that Barak Obama made a huge – strategic – mistake with his “crossing the red line” nonsense about a “limited use of chemical weapons” by the government forces. Obama probably wanted to give the insurgency a better bargaining position for the Geneva II negotiations, but all he succeeded in doing is fundamentally changing the strategic balance on the ground. It is one thing to fight the Syrian military, it is a qualitatively other one to fight the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. By committing these forces already now, the Iranians are sending a chilling message to Washington: “we do not fear you, and our commitment to Syria is open ended”.
As a military analyst specializing in strategic analysis I have to marvel at the superb elegance of the Iranian move because it essentially checkmates the USA’s entire strategic plan for the Middle-East. When I wrote that there is no way the US would put any boots on the ground, I assumed that they would not dare to do that against the Syrians. But, at least, some really naive Americans could have hoped that with enough bombing of Syrian civilians (a la Kosovo) the regime would eventually have to give in. With thousands of Iranian Pasdars on the ground this is categorically not an option.
This development, apparently only noticed by Robert Fisk, is really a game changer. What this means for the USA/NATO/CENTCOM/Israel/al-Qaeda is this: “GAME OVER!”.
The Russian/Iranian alliance has done what it does best: it has responded asymmetrically to the US moves. While the entire world was focusing on S-300s deliveries and Russian Navy moves, it essentially negated the entire US strategy by qualitatively changing the facts on the ground before the US could even react.
US options at this point are extremely limited. Yes, it can still engage in an orgy of civilian killings just to punish the Syrians and prevent elections. It can also denounce the Iranian intervention, but since the entire planet by now knows that the insurgency is largely foreign and supported by the USA’s own admission (!), this would be rather hollow. It can also do the wise thing and strenuously look away from the Iranian presence on the ground and pretend like nothing happened. If it decided to do that, it could even try to get some kind of face saving deal at Geneva II. Attacking Iran is not an option (even less so after the beautiful elections the Iranians just had). Blaming Russia is not an option either as there is exactly zero proof of Russian involvement.
The war itself is, of course, not quite over yet. This will all take time to play itself out. But yes, this is most definitely the beginning of the end. To the disgraceful defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq the US can now add a no less disgraceful defeat in Syria. Good.