The Shia crescent, from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, seems to have taken a step up from being a notional area of Shiite power to what is now, in effect, an actual Iranian-controlled land corridor connecting Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Reports have emerged recently suggesting that Iran-backed forces are closer to controlling the Syria-Iraq border:
If this turns out to be accurate, this is an exceptional moment. It means that at long last, Iran once again has a contiguous land bridge from its territory, through northern Iraq and Syria, right through to the Mediterranean coast.
The Iranians will be able to link up with their foremost regional proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah. After 12 years of conflict in Iraq and Syria, Tehran is transforming into a powerful geopolitical player whose influence will be projected hundreds and maybe thousands of kilometers beyond its borders.
Irina Tsukerman - Time to Panic: Iran Has Crossed the Rubicon:
In reality, it’s never time to panic. However, it is indeed time to reevaluate stagnating US policy in the Middle East. The recent news that an identified Iranian convoy has crossed through Iraq and entered Syria, possibly through the completed Tehran-Damascus road, should certainly give the administration pause. The security implications here are multifold.
First, if the road is indeed complete, this greatly facilitates the entrance of the IRGC, Hashd al-Shaabi, and any other Iran-affiliated forces and militias, into the country, greatly increasing chances for violence on the border with Israel, and trouble inside the country. Iranian takeover of Kirkuk has been violent, with rumors of Christians and Kurds being raped by Hashd and other groups, houses being burned down, and Peshmerga being taken prisoners and tortured. More of the same can be expected in Syria, if Iranian presence there increases significantly. Stopping the flow of the military, terrorists, and arms in and out of the country will require a significantly greater commitment from the US-backed SDF, and indeed, perhaps the US troops in Syria. All of this could have been avoided, had the US disrupted the building of this passageway and pushed back against Iranian incursion into Syria months ago.
Second, it is clear that at least part of the purpose for the Iranian growing presence in Iraq, in addition to exploitation of local resources, containment of Kurdish independence movements, and cultural colonization, is to provide a safe passage for Iranian convoys traveling to Syria and other parts of the Middle East. The illusion of Iraq’s independence is quickly unraveling before the international community; the Trump administration’s policy of non-intervention has already proven to be a colossal failure, and will further endanger the US troops, as well as US allies, as time passes.
The US position thus far has been contingent on finishing off ISIS in Iraq with the help of Baghdad, and ensuring continuous Baghdad cooperation vis-a-vis Tehran. To that effect, the United States facilitated a defense treaty between al-Abadi and King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Despite warnings of caution, however, it was obvious that such a plan was bound to fail. Appeasing Baghdad at the expense of the Kurds did not bring greater independence from Iran; on the contrary, it gave the regime greenlight to treat Iraq as its own proxy. The results are self evident: essentially, increased contiguous territory for the regime, coupled with the lucrative access to oil in the Kirkuk area, easy area for training and operations, and stronger partnership with the Russia, which has likewise has been expanding its reach in the region.
Third, Syria is about to experience a resurgence of conflict. With Russia and Iran both building naval bases and other fortifications, close to the border of Israel, and with Israel having already attacked Iranian arms factories in recent weeks, trouble is easily foreseeable.....