Andrew Malcolm lays out the real news about Russia and Putin

If you are reading the media today about Russia and America, you'll get a lot of fake news with insinuations of a sinister plot involving a now-disgraced national security adviser.  But there is even scarier news about real facts involving the geopolitical challenge the United States now faces with Putin's Russia.

Andrew Malcolm explains how Russia and Iran are taking the tangible steps necessary to take over control of the Middle East.  That would be really bad for us, and possibly fatal for Israel.  From his weekly McClatchy column (but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing):

With little international notice, Russia is using the Syrian civil war as a live-fire boot camp to train Iranian forces as the region's dominant military force. And the U.S. seems unable – or still unwilling – to respond effectively.

The "unable" hypothesis really worries me in the wake of eight years of deterioration of our defense infrastructure.

Iran has already dispatched up to 100,000 troops or proxies into next-door Iraq, allegedly to help its Shia neighbor combat ISIS. But it is also arming and backing Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Syria, among others.

Iran's concerted buildup, including sophisticated new Russian missile defenses, is expanding its armed influence toward tipping the Middle East's balance of power adversely to American interests.

Trump says Iran is "misbehaving," but so far has merely warned the regime against its activities with symbolic sanctions. Iran's response was to launch another test missile capable of reaching Israel.

This is particularly revealing of Putin's hard-edged strategy:

Russia isn't saying how many troops it's stationed in Syria. Like Iran, Russia's military has cycled forces in and out of that war-torn country to spread training and experience to as many troops as possible.

In a rare glimpse of the actual size of Russian forces in Syria, diplomats have spotted reports of 4,571 Russian soldiers voting absentee there recently. Last year, Russia announced a purchase order for more than 10,000 Syrian campaign participation medals.

However many have passed through, their assignments are clear – to help defeat factions opposing Assad and, simultaneously, turn their own troops into experienced combat veterans. And Russian bombing has somehow managed to also hit anti-Assad rebels coached by U.S. Special Forces.

Malcolm notes that reporting on this sort of thing is expensive, and the media just don't have the money to send out people into the field and let them study and document important news like this.  As a veteran top-level foreign correspondent, he knows how it used to be done.  But with his enterprise, he was able to get a hold of the data from reliable public sources and put it all together to show us the big picture.  He may not have "broken news" in the strict sense, and his column is labeled "Opinion."  But he is bringing this information to public note, and it was news to me.

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