For the first time, a senior commander has acknowledged that members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force are in Syria, Reuters reports. For now, they are providing non-military aid, Tehran says, but if Syria is attacked, Iran will use military measures to defend it.
With the US administration shaken, off balance and frightened by the chaos sweeping the region, and most of the Middle East distracted from the bloodbath in Syria by a 14 minute amateur video filmed by criminals and fly-by-nights in southern California, Iran probably feels much more optimistic about Assad’s prospects in Syria than it has for some time. The Obama administration, frantically scrambling to salvage its policy of cooperation with moderate Islamists and to hold Israel back from an attack on Iran — and badly shaken by the chaos in Libya — does not look like much of a threat.
This is a good time for Iran to double down in Syria: the Sunnis are fuming at America and quarreling among themselves, and America is rattled and retreating. The Libyan fiasco engaged US attention and resources on an irrelevant sideshow and has left us unprepared as we face the main event in the region: the struggle to evict Iran from Syria and Lebanon.
Iran’s effort to solidify its position in Syria and Lebanon, and the need to prevent that from happening are still the heart of the matter in the Middle East today. The Obama administration must not let itself be distracted; the Iranians have not lost their focus and we must not lose ours. Our principal allies and associates in the region — the Turks, the Israelis and the Gulf Arabs — all share a common fear of Iran, whatever problems they have with each other. The Obama administration cannot drop the ball on Iran — and right now, that means Syria — without making all its other regional problems even worse.