When Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the green light to Russian aerial bombing of rebel-held positions in southwestern Syria two weeks ago, he knew he was asking for trouble.
And he appears to be getting plenty of it.
Putin knows that in approving the operation, he wasn’t simply enabling Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Syrian military forces to extend the regime’s control to an area that has been controlled by various rebel militia for seven years.
The Syrian military is an empty shell. Russia effectively serves as the Syrian Air Force. Iran and Iranian-controlled groups control Syria’s ground forces.
Israeli intelligence assesses that thousands of Iranian forces are deployed in Syria. The troops Iran commands are not predominantly Syrian. Rather, most of the ground troops in the so-called Syrian military are Iranian-controlled Hezbollah terrorists from Lebanon, and members of Iranian-controlled Shiite militia, which is in turn comprised of fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Israeli intelligence estimates that some seven thousand Hezbollah forces and 9,000 Shiite militia members are deployed to Syria to fight on behalf of Assad’s regime.