Vladimir Putin ups ante in challenge of U.S. dominance of Persian Gulf, Middle East
Russian President Vladimir Putin has outflanked Washington again in the Syrian civil war by launching bombers this week from a new base — Iran — giving him the power to strike more quickly with heavier bombardments against U.S.-backed rebels, analysts say.
“Perhaps the main thing that is new is that U.S. sole power dominance in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East is coming to an end,” said Stephen Bryen, a former congressional staff director and Pentagon official. “The Russians are now in the game, with assets in Syria and Iranand growing influence via Iran in Iraq.”
Moscow surprised the Obama administration last year by sending a wave of fighter bombers into Syria, moving into an air base in the west and unleashing daily strikes. U.S. officials said the bombs indiscriminately hit civilians, schools and medical centers as well as Free Syrian Army troops backed by Washington. NATO’s commander at the time said Mr. Putin was purposely hitting civilians to drive more refugees into Europe.
The result: Syrian President Bashar Assad strengthened a grip on power that seemed in doubt.
Now, as Moscow holds talks with Secretary of State John F. Kerry on some kind of Syria settlement, Mr. Putinopened this front: Iran. He claims to be hitting Islamic State targets, but a Pentagon spokesman said this week that his bombers are striking areas not known to hold such terrorists.
The bottom line, analysts say, is that Mr. Putin has clearly settled on a strategy to challenge U.S. pre-eminence in the Persian Gulf.