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In the Post, Ralph Peters argues that Putin pulled out of Syria to avoid letting Iran gain too much power.

Putin didn’t go into Syria because Assad was a pal. He sent in his air power and his commandos to expand Russia’s regional influence as American power ebbed. He thought he saw a not-to-be-missed strategic opportunity.

And he certainly expected Assad to be grateful for his salvation at Russian hands…

The long bet is that his generals, diplomats and intelligence hands on the ground were shocked by the degree to which Iran already and irrevocably dominates Syria. And Iraq. And Lebanon.

With a shudder, Putin recognized that his air campaign would ultimately benefit an emerging Persian/Iranian empire, rather than expanding Moscow’s influence. Similarly, our air campaign and special operations against ISIS, although necessary, will inevitably strengthen Tehran’s regional dominance (we gave away Iraq, but we still do the maintenance).

We’re trapped, but Putin wasn’t. So he got out.

I agree with the general shape of this analysis, but I don’t believe that Putin was surprised by anything. His strategy has been about creating chaos and instability to expand Russian power, whether it’s in the Middle East or the Ukraine, pitting rivals against each other, playing off different sides, maximizing the perception of Russian power and then leaving an even bigger mess behind.

Ukraine and Syria showed just how limited Russia’s military power really is. It’s why Turkey was able to slap Russia around with impunity. All the RT boasts about destroying ISIS repeated by gullible Infowars readers were so much nonsense. Putin is not about to let terrorists taunt him into a war in which he has nothing to gain.

Russia can’t afford to take the kind of losses that America took in Iraq. Not in manpower, the Russian military has never cared about throwing lives away, but in cost, equipment and prestige.

Putin doesn’t suffer from American naivety about making friends. He wanted to protect Russian interests in Syria, but the best way to do it was by…

1. Keeping its current pro-Russian government in power

2. While weakening it and making it more dependent on Russia

This creates a balance of power with Iran in which Syria can turn to Russia for protection against Iran or the US and its Sunni allies. This is exactly what Putin wants because he can play the axis while limiting his exposure.

He can help Obama “solve” Syria. He can also make


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