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After more than five years of turmoil and bloody war, a new reality is emerging in the Middle East that could have far reaching consequences for the rest of the world and Israel in particular.
Developments in Syria and to a lesser degree in Iraq make clear that the United States is further losing control over the situation in both countries.
In Iraq the Obama administration is helping the Shiite dominated Iranian-backed central government in Baghdad to change the balance of power in favor of the Iranian axis that wants to turn Iraq into a proxy state based on the Lebanese model.
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Iranian-backed Shiite militias that operate under the name Hashd al-Sha’abi (the Popular Mobilization Forces) and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army work together with Kurdish militias of which Peshmerga is the strongest force to drive the Islamic state out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
The odd alliance receives air-support and other forms of military backing from the U.S. Army, which has just sent another 600 troops to Iraq to help liberate Mosul.
The Obama Administration announced last week that it had authorized a new reinforcement of U.S. ground forces six years after it pledged to pull all American soldiers out of Iraq.
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The U.S. now has more than 5,000 Special Forces in Iraq.
The parties involved in the preparations for the liberation of Mosul have a totally different view about what needs to be done after ISIS is defeated.
While the Obama Administration agrees with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that Mosul needs to be returned to central government control after the removal of the Islamic State, the Kurds are determined to use the capture of Mosul as a stage in the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.
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The president of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Barzani, has already announced a referendum about independence to be held in the near future.
The Sunni tribes in the Nineveh Province complain that they, as a majority in Mosul and the Nineveh region are being left out of the preparations for the battle against ISIS in the city.
They fear the Hashd al-Sha’abi militia not only for their cruelties against Sunnis but also for their ties with Iran which wants to create a corridor leading from the Iranian border west of Mosul, through Syria to southern Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights.
The Shiite militias are in some cases embedded with Iraqi army units and are trained by Iran and receive American weapons via the central Iraqi government in Baghdad.
To complicate things further, the Sunnis have now established their own militia under the name of Hashd al-Watani which receives help from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The militia is led by former officers of Saddam’s Hussein’s army that was disbanded after the U.S. invasion in Iraq in 2003 and receives its training from the Turkish army which also wants a part in the liberation of Mosul.
Both the Kurds and the Sunnis want to get rid of the central government in Baghdad and prefer to split up Iraq in separate independent states along sectarian lines.
Iran is likely going to be the big winner in this emerging new conflict since it has a powerful ally in Russia and is in fact helped by the Obama Administration which apparently still believes that with the defeat of the Islamic State, war in Iraq will end.
In Syria the situation is even more disastrous.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest attempt to restart negotiations about a political solution to the conflict backfired and has led to a serious conflict with the Russians.
After he issued a meaningless ultimatum about the termination of Russian-American coordination in Syria that came on the heels of a new failed ceasefire, Putin seems to have adopted a strategy of total war.
Over the weekend it has become clear that Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city will fall and probably soon.
The Russians are bombing rebel positions in Eastern Aleppo relentlessly and Assad’s army together with Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shiite forces are gearing up for the final battle that aims to drive the Fatah Halab (Conquest of Aleppo) Islamist coalition out of the city.
When this happens, the Russian-Iranian backed pro-Assad coalition will have achieved victory over the rebels in western Syria where the major Syrian population centers are located.
Those population centers are slowly emptied of the Sunni population by using siege and heavy aerial bombardments.
The goal of the Iranians is the same as in Iraq; Syria needs to become an Iranian proxy state led by an Iranian puppet, Assad.
Assad is for his survival totally dependent on Iran and Russia and he knows that he has to pay a heavy price for clinging on to power.
So after the “liberation” of Aleppo, the Islamic Republic will turn Syria into a proxy state as well and will finally have achieved its goal of creating the corridor that will connect Iran to Israel’s northeastern border.
As for the Russians, they will most likely achieve their goal as well.
Putin has discovered that the Obama administration will do nothing substantial to stop the decline of America’s power in the Middle East and just plays cat and mouse with the Administration in Geneva where Kerry dreamed to create a new Syria via diplomacy.
Putin has transformed Syria into a Russian base and now not only controls Syrian airspace but the eastern Mediterranean Sea as well.
Last month he received a Syrian “invitation” to set up a permanent air base in Khmeimim close to Latakia International Airport in western Syria. This enables the Russian air force to check the power of the Israeli navy and the U.S. Navy sixth fleet in the Mediterranean.
For Israel, the Obama administration’s failure to intervene in Syria at a moment that it was still possible to stem the Iranian imperial aspirations in the region will have dire consequences as well.
The Russian deployment of the S-400 missile air defense system in Syria has virtually cancelled Israel’s military edge in the area north and east of the country.
As a result, the Israeli air force is now suddenly limited in its ability to take preventive action against Iranian military build-up in Syria and Lebanon.
Some commentators now advise Israel to deploy military trainers to anti-Iranian forces such as the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in northern Iraq and the YPG in Syria.
But it seems too late.
Obama envisioned that Iran would become a “very successful regional power” when he pursued the nuclear agreement with the Mullah’s in Tehran.
The president really thought that by reaching out to the Islamist regime in Tehran he could moderate Iran’s aggressive behavior and turn it in an ally that could be trusted to take over America’s role in the region.
Now at the end of Obama’s presidency we see that part of this vision is becoming reality before our eyes albeit in a way that the president apparently never expected.
Iran will control events in Iraq and Syria in the way it does in Lebanon via Hezbollah.
It will form an ever increasing threat to Israel’s security as soon as the corridor from Mosul to Kuneitra on the Syrian Golan Heights has been established.
At the same time Israel will have to cope with Russia’s take-over as the regional super power and its role as protector of the Iranian axis that already tries to set up camp next to its border with Syria.
“Normalization” in the relationship between Iran and the U.S. would enhance regional stability, Obama always claimed.
Three years later the Middle East has become an even harsher place than it already was and the rise of Iran and Russia in the region could spark wars that will make the Syrian war look like child’s play.