Victory in war often brings with it unforeseen challenges and obligations. Russia is now learning that to sustain its victory in Syria’s civil war it must play a role as an arbiter or honest broker between Iran and Israel lest their rivalry explodes into large-scale combat, engulfs the entire region, and undermines Russia’s newly-acquired position there. Such a war would utterly confound Russia’s interest in stabilizing a post-civil war Syria under Bashar al-Assad and retaining the bases and lucrative contracts it has won as well as its regional status as a key superpower without whom nothing can be accomplished.
Apart from the destruction it would wreak, an Iran-Israeli war would consume Syria, bring the United States back to the Middle East in a big way, and force Russia to choose between the two states against its own preferences. In other words, this war could wipe out all of Russia’s recent gains from its intervention in Syria.
That could happen sooner than anyone expected. While Moscow is interested in stabilizing Syria and possibly reforming Assad’s government to achieve domestic stability, Iran defines its vital interest as ensuring that Assad rules all of Syria as an Iranian client state where it could deploy forces in an unbroken road from Iran to the Mediterranean. That not only terrifies Sunni regimes that would become targets of even greater Iranian pressures and threats, it also directly threatens the existence of Israel.
Read the entire piece at the New Atlanticist.