There are new sheriffs in town rockin the Casbah in the Middle East. The new axis of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah will radically change the balance of power in the region in ways the Soviet Union could only dream of. Russian air power, along with Iranian and Hezbollah troops could prove to be an effective fighting force that could allow Moscow to shape the region and enjoy outsized influence for decades to come. The question is, what does this new reality have in store for the national security of the United States?
The first answer to that question is that access to forty percent of the world’s oil supply could be denied to the U.S. and its allies in times of conflict. With the American shale oil revolution, this reality is not as important as it used to be, say thirty years ago. However, the loss of freedom of the seas and skies around the oil producing states in the Gulf could be significant. We are nowhere near this scenario now of course; however, as Iran buys more and more sophisticated air defense systems from Russia and Putin deploys more and more air defense systems of his own to protect an expanding Russian presence, there definitely could be areas that would be denied entry by American aircraft save an all out assault.
The Obama administration has already pushed several allies into the Russian orbit. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and even Israel have called on Putin’s court in Moscow. Gulf states and Middle Eastern despots respect strength, not weakness and indecisiveness. They’d rather go with a winner. In the last seven years, America has not been the winner and her future strategy is timid at best. Allies matter in this world and we’ve not been wise in how we treat ours.
Speaking of Israel, the Jewish State is becoming isolated and can no longer count on the United States, and the world knows it. The IDF is a potent force but can only confront so much alone. It’s not hard to see a Russian/Iranian power structure stretching from Damascus to Tehran. What is this coalition decides to pressure Israel into behavior more to its liking? The answer remains to be seen. Judging by Iran’s recent behavior, they are in no mood to stop calling for Israel’s destruction. Would Israel be so willing to bomb Syrian weapons transfers from Iran if the new Middle Eastern axis made it clear that was against the rules?
How about the Kurd’s which have enjoyed Pax Americana for some time now in Iraq? Although Iran recently supplied weapons in the Peshmerga’s fight with the Islamic State, only a few years ago they two peoples were at each other’s throats. With Turkey to the north and the Iranian/Russian axis to the south, the Kurds would be on their own.
Although Europe seems to be hell bent to invite the populations of Middle Eastern countries to Europe, NATO is still a viable alliance and should be concerned with the southern flank bordering an expanding axis that does not share its values. Now let’s throw a nuclear armed Iran into the mix. It’s only a matter of time and the world knows it. They just conducted a test of a ballistic missile that can hit Europe and Israel. What if they decide to threaten NATO?
Finally, let’s discuss terrorism. Russia needs to fight Sunni Islamic extremism just as much as the West does. It’s one thing that keeps Putin up at night. However, don’t forget that Iran is one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism. Iranian backed Hezbollah is a designated terrorist organization. The Obama adminstration wants you to forget that. America can’t sing kumbaya with terrorists.
Yes, abdicating American presence and leadership in the Middle East has consequences, just not good ones.