Reuters tells the story of how the Russo-Iranian War for Syria began at a secret meeting in Moscow last July:
Major General Qassem Soleimani’s visit to Moscow was the first step in planning for a Russian military intervention that has reshaped the Syrian war and forged a new Iranian-Russian alliance in support of Assad.
As Russian warplanes bomb rebels from above, the arrival of Iranian special forces for ground operations underscores several months of planning between Assad’s two most important allies, driven by panic at rapid insurgent gains.
Soleimani is the commander of the Quds Force, the elite extra-territorial special forces arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Senior regional sources say he has already been overseeing ground operations against insurgents in Syria and is now at the heart of planning for the new Russian- and Iranian-backed offensive.
Vladimir Putin once flattened Grozny — a major city in his own country — to stamp out a rebellion there. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were known to force-march kids across minefields in order to clear them.
Between the two of them, Putin and Soleimani certainly have enough ruthless cunning to save Assad.