How Heightened U.S.-Iran Conflict Plays to Russia’s Advantage

How Heightened U.S.-Iran Conflict Plays to Russia’s Advantage
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, left, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Damascus, Jan. 7, 2020 (pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via AP Images).

The assassination of Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, raises a lot of questions about what an all-out war between the United States and Iran might look like. The simple answer is that it will be bad, but how bad may depend as much on Russia as it does on the U.S. and Iran.

If there is one player in the dangerous drama unfolding in the Middle East with the ability to flip the script, it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin. Five years ago, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, dismissed Russia as a “regional power” capable at most of menacing weaker neighbors like Ukraine. Today, Putin appears to be making a convincing case that when it comes to influencing security in the Middle East, Russia, not the U.S., is now the indispensable nation.

Putin was in Damascus earlier this week meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad just hours before Iran, in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, launched ballistic missile strikes on two military bases in Iraq that host U.S. forces. Days earlier, the new commander of Russian forces in Syria, Lt. Gen. Alexander Chaiko, reportedly delivered official condolences for Soleimani’s death to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus. Putin’s visit to Syria was his second since Russia deployed troops there in 2015 to prop up Assad at the height of the Syrian civil war.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review