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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Putin Now Needs a Plan B on Iran

Qassem Soleimani’s death may force a change in the Russian calculus involving Syria, Iran and Turkey.

Having to re-aim?

Having to re-aim?

Photographer: Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, killed last week by a U.S. drone in Baghdad, has been credited with persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene militarily in Syria in 2015, a claim the Kremlin denies. Regardless of the truth of that particular story, though, the inevitable escalation following Soleimani’s death has the potential to change Putin’s calculus in the region.

Commenting on Soleimani’s demise, the Russian Defense Ministry praised his “indisputable contribution” to defeating the Islamic State in Syria. The ministry credited him for organizing an armed resistance to ISIS long before the U.S. created its own anti-ISIS coalition. Indeed, if it weren’t for Iran’s so-called Axis of Resistance, which includes the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and other regional armed groups, it would have made no sense for Russia to enter the Syrian conflict.