The Moscow-Tehran Axis vs the Caliphate vs Us

If it isn’t a real axis yet, it will be soon:

Vladimir Putin has agreed a $20bn (£11.8bn) trade deal with Iran that will see Russia sidestep Western sanctions on its energy sector.

Under the terms of a five-year accord, Russia will help Iran organise oil sales as well as “cooperate in the oil-gas industry, construction of power plants, grids, supply of machinery, consumer goods and agriculture products”, according to a statement by the Energy Ministry in Moscow.

The Russian government issued a new statement on Wednesday after mysteriously withdrawing a similar release on Tuesday.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday that his government will help Iran bring its oil to market. In return, Iran wants to imort power and pump equipment, steel products such as pipes, machinery for its leather and textile industries, wood, wheat, pulses, oilseeds and meat.

Sanctions? What sanctions?

This deal is more bitter fruit resulting from Obama’s insistence on putting rapprochement with Iran over almost any other consideration in the Middle East. In the absence of a Plan B from the White House, Moscow and Iran are free to do pretty much whatever they want — except of course where the IS/Caliphate’s writ runs.

Speaking of whom

A Saudi suicide bomber killed in a raid by Lebanese security forces was part of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group, according to a statement published on Friday that Lebanese security officials said they were taking seriously.

Three members of the security forces were wounded when they stormed Beirut’s Duroy Hotel on Wednesday and the Saudi suspect detonated his explosives, killing himself and wounding an accomplice.

It was the third bomb blast in five days in Lebanon, which has been hit by violence linked to conflict in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, both fighting rebels who have seized territory straddling their disintegrating border.

“Two lions of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who infiltrated the city of Beirut at the Duroy Hotel, engaged a group from the General Security service loyal to the Party of Satan,” the statement said in a derogatory reference to Hezbollah.

While our attention is focused belatedly on Kurdistan and Iraq, IS/Caliphate is opening a third front in Lebanon. Of course, Lebanon is hardly stable in the best of times, which might make it a juicy piece of low-hanging fruit for the budding Islamic State.

For the Caliph, winning control of Lebanon, if such a thing is even possible, is far less important than smashing Hezbollah. Without Hezbollah, Iran’s reach becomes more limited and Assad’s position in the Syrian Civil War becomes less tenable. If IS/Caliphate wants to land a body blow on its two main rivals, Lebanon is the best place to do it.

So, again, we find ourselves fortifying Iran’s position while simultaneously trying to talk them out of their nuclear program. The cognitive dissonance in the White House and at Foggy Bottom is turned up to 11. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is simply doing what it’s told, even though by all accounts nobody there believes what they’re being told to do is remotely close to enough to accomplish the Administration’s stated goals.

What then are the Administration’s unstated goals?

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