With the Helsinki summit approaching between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the situation on the ground in the Middle East is remarkably different than it was just a very short time ago.
Iran, once well on its way to becoming the hegemon in the region, is rapidly being marginalized. In fact, you could say the regime is on its way to collapse, undermined by forces from within.
Mr. Trump’s help was crucial, of course. The coming U.S. sanctions, according to Secretary of State Pompeo, will be devastating. With the regime having spent all its money on the wars in Syria and Iraq, if oil revenues go to zero, it’s game over for the mullahs.
The killers in Tehran know this. This is why Iran dispatched Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign issues, to Moscow this week to deliver a threat to Mr. Putin: Do not make a deal with Mr. Trump or your forces in Syria may suffer.
Iran and Russia have forces in Syria bolstering the Assad regime. With the Kremlin having wound down the bulk of its forces inside Syria, Iran is resisting growing pressure to give up its firmly entrenched positions in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
But Russia no longer needs anything that Iran has to give. One reason for Mr. Putin’s support of the Iran deal and for the regime itself has been for help in propping up the Assad government, a long-term Soviet/Russian ally. Mr. Putin would understandably like to preserve the Russian navy base at the port of Tartus and its access to the airfields near Latakia.