It is noteworthy that we are experiencing a sort of a second Arab Spring from Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran without anyone calling it that way, whereby the Iran-Iraq-Lebanon axis is also seen in the light of the Shiite Crescent and the US-Iran conflict. Although there are social causes and in the case of Iran, the US sanctions that lead to the unrest, but the Iranian leadership and its allies see it as riots produced by the CIA and Hezbollah actively tries to suppress the protests in Lebanon as forces from outside. Iran is polarizing itself. But these are so far spontaneous rebellions, uncoordinated, without leadership, which can still easily be defeated. This plays into the hands of the hardliners.
Only the following options remain: The US is starving Iran like they did by the sanctions against Iraq in the 90s (Madeleine Albright: We have Saddam in the box), which would possibly cause a reaction by the Iranian leadership – drone attacks ala Saudi Arabia or other actions are conceivable. Second option: the Trump administration and Israel are arming the Iranian opposition, which in the perspective promises a new Syria, or the hardliners are getting their way and try to get nuclear weapons, which then again puts the option of a military strike and, if necessary, a war on the agenda. If Khameini doesn´t surrender, which seems rather unlikely, I see only these options. But possible that the hardliners are also offensive and hope for a kind of military liberation strike.
On top of that, with the USA recognizing settlements in the West Bank, the PLO now has no choice but to move on to militant or even terrorist struggles, or to accept Hamas or even more radical forces in the West Bank to seize power. Meanwhile, the Middle East Forum of Daniel Pipes is attempting to promote this policy through its Israel Victory project, and soon a panel on this and Turkey’s role in NATO is planned in Congress, including the exclusion of Turkey from NATO. The Trump Erdogan meeting does not make such a development very likely at the moment.
So while Russia is trying to restore stability in Syria, the surrounding states are increasingly disintegrating. Russia could also not have the power to act as a regulatory authority for the entire area. Dr. Kortunov from RIAC has judged Russia’s ability to be rather pessimistic, while the faction around Karaganov sees Russia as a supplier for international security. Like the US, the Russians in the Greater Middle East will also reach their limits.