Welcome to the Kremlin, General!
Thank you for having me, Mr. President!
[Putin and Major General Soleimani shake hands vigorously. They do the traditional shot of chilled frontier vodka before sitting down on red-leather, oligarch sofas.]
I must say: You have been doing some splendid work over there. Reminds me of the good old days when I was a field officer.
Sir, you are too kind! My shabby exploits in the greater gulf region are nowhere close to being in the same league as your annexation of Crimea alone!
We are both equally men of steel, General; both of us, both of us.
Now, let’s get down to business. Give me the latest on the three-front war.
We are more or less holding the line on all three fronts, Sir. We expect Assad to hold his own…
[Putin interrupts Soleimani.]
I worry about that man.
We think he can hold onto the territory he has now. But if Assad needs reinforcements… Nasrallah [Hezbollah leader] is prepared to send another thousand troops; as am I.
The problem is that Assad is consuming ammunition at a faster rate that we estimated.
Of course; of course. Six?
Assad is asking for 12 planes’ worth again. I think 6 should be enough for the time being. We’re gonna need some leverage over Assad soon anyway. Things are proceeding quickly with the Americans.
I thought you won’t fold unless they gave way on Assad.
He is not going anywhere. But we may need him to be accommodative. Yeah, we need him on a short leash.
[Soleimani nods his head gravely.]
[Putin nods gravely as well; considers congratulating the General on the nuclear deal, but he is not entirely pleased with the turn of events. With $100 billion coming into Iranian coffers soon, he needs to maintain his own leverage against Soulemani. Our man decides to bring the General down a notch.]
I warned you about Salman [Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince].
We didn’t expect that the young prince would dare to place boots on the ground [in Yemen]. Bitch has balls!
Hahaha. No matter. Can the Houthis hold their own though?
Or they going to run back into the hills with their tails behind their legs?
We haven’t given up on these guys yet. Even if they can’t win, they’ll at least keep the Saudis occupied for a while.
Yes, yes. They are useful. When I was a teenager, back in the sixties, we went out of our way to defend the nascent Yemeni Republic against the Houthi hordes.
How times have changed!
[There is a diplomatic pause as Soulemani considers a response. He decides to change the subject.]
Speaking of useful. My guys are finding the geo-sat intel very, very useful! They all wanna know when we can go real-time.
[Russia operates thirty intelligence satellites and likely shares intel with Iran.]
Talk to Bortnikov [Director of the FSB] about that. What about ISIS?
Both the fronts have stabilized. We don’t expect any major development until the winter. The Turks look like they might get kinetic. After Erdogan is done pummelling the PKK, that is. Although we are can’t be very confident. They are new to the game.
Of course, we still don’t know when the US is going to go after ISIS in earnest. We can do no more than hold the line until the US cleans up its own mess.
Agreed. Leave ISIS to the Americans; your new superpower ally!
We both know Americans can’t be trusted. Russia is our true friend.
Perhaps you should have told your true friend that you were talking to the enemy on Qaboos’ turf.
[Secret negotiations between Iran and the US on a nuclear deal began in Oman.]
We should have; we should have. Russia has been there for us in our hour of need.
Don’t forget that.
[Putin suddenly decides this is the perfect note to end the conversation; lest Soleimani forget his place in the scheme of things. Putin rises up and offers his hand.]
Very well, General. Keep up the good work!