Radical Islam and Russia are converging in a deadly and dangerous unholy alliance. In my upcoming new book (due out September 20), “Unholy Alliance: The Agenda Iran, Russia, and Jihadists Share for Conquering the World,” I uncover some of these dangerous trends and detail solutions that our nation’s leaders must take. This continues the in-depth analysis of radical Islam we began in the #1 New York Times bestseller “Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore.”
A change has recently occurred in U.S. policy toward the Middle East, as we have begun to withdraw from the region under President Obama. According to Ryan Crocker, dean and executive professor of the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University and a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, we are now seeing “the lowest ebb since World War II for U.S. influence and engagement in the region.”
The United States has substantially withdrawn its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and has, for the most part, chosen not to involve itself in the civil war raging in Syria, due to the Obama Administration’s foreign policy decisions. This departure has created a vacuum in the Middle East, a void waiting to be filled by some other country.
Our enemies no longer fear us and our allies don’t trust us.
Power abhors a vacuum. As Crocker explains, “[I]f you look at the heart of the Middle East, where the U.S. once was, we are now gone—and in our place, we have Iran, Iran’s Shiite proxies [e.g., Hezbollah], Islamic State [i.e., ISIS] and the Russians.”
Strangely, some Muslim sects that normally war with one another are even joining forces in some of these unlikely alliances.
For example, Shia Iran is supporting Sunni Hamas because they both want to see Israel wiped off the face of the planet. Eager to spread its vision of Islamic revolution throughout the Islamic world, Iran has been strategically expanding its reach through proxy terror organizations ever since it overthrew the Shah in 1979 and established the Islamic Republic of Iran. At the same time, Russia’s activity in the Middle East has greatly increased as our former Cold War foe attempts to regain a foothold in the region and assert control over lucrative oil resources.
As Iran seeks to fill the vacuum and oppose American interests around the world, it has cultivated an alliance with Russia, a nation led by a former Cold War intelligence officer who dreams of returning Russia to its Soviet-level influence in the region and throughout the world.
This is not shocking to even the most rudimentary student of world history. We recognize human nature, and we know how evil works.
If the United States is unwilling to sacrifice and stand up against dictators and terrorists, then the dictators and terrorists will work together to ensure more people around the world are oppressed, and they will oppose the United States at every turn.
When we show weakness, they show strength. When we withdraw, they advance. When we lack strategy, they execute their strategy. And let there be no doubt, this will result in more terrorist attacks, more aggression, more lives lost and a reshaping of the world order.
Nowhere is the unholy alliance between Russia and Iran more clearly displayed than in their partnership with Syrian president Bashar al‑Assad against the rebel forces attempting to overthrow his regime. Both Russia and Iran have supported Assad’s regime as part of a strategic alliance. Iran and Russia share one goal in Syria—to keep the Assad regime in power. In July 2015, Iran and Russia rapidly and significantly increased their political and military cooperation.
Ultimately, if Russia and Iran continue to fight for the Assad regime in Syria, the result will be an expansion of Iran’s influence in Syria. This expansion will further destabilize the Middle East by placing Iranian forces in Sunni-Arab lands as well as on the border with Israel, expanding the Iranian hegemon, and strengthening Russia’s presence in the region at the United States’ expense.
One thing is clear: When the United States fails to lead, enemies of freedom will fill the vacuum and do everything they can to spread terror and oppression.
This is not just a matter of geopolitical gamesmanship between global superpowers. Real lives are on the line—the lives of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, women and children, and innocent people of all ethnicities and nationalities. But as history has also made clear, in a globalized world, terror and chaos are not contained in one region. What happens there will impact our lives here in the United States as well.
But all hope is not lost. The United States and our allies can defeat this wave of aggression and terror. As the former prime minister of Great Britain Benjamin Disraeli regularly stated, “Forti nihil difficile”—nothing is too difficult for the brave. But time is running out.