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Days after Qasem Soleimani—the leader of the elite Iranian Quds force who is responsible for the deaths of at least 500 Americans in Iraq—visited Russia in violation of travel sanctions, Russia began building a base and delivering heavy arms and troops to Syria.

It’s no secret that Iran and Russia wish to prop up their murderous ally, Bashar al-Assad, in Syria as the civil war he started in his country still roars on with far-reaching consequences. But the boldness of Russia’s move seems to have taken this Administration by surprise.

It’s obvious that Russia has no respect to this Administration’s warnings or calls for de-escalation. Ever since Syria crossed President Obama’s red line with no consequences, Russia and other nations have known that they can do what they will with little fear of a meaningful response. As Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said,

The administration’s tepid reaction so far (statements of concern, phone calls to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, efforts to block Russian air traffic to Syria) is probably encouraging to the Russians, and they are likely to press on.

But Russia’s presence in Syria will only make the situation worse. With the Administration’s lackluster training program failing to produce results and the civil war continuing unabated, ISIS has risen from the ashes and a refugee crisis is gripping Europe. With Russia on the scene, Assad’s battered forces will gain new strength, and the civil war will intensify.

The President’s weak response to Syria has allowed the conflict to continue in the way it has. Without American leadership, Russia has decided it is willing to step in, even if that means more bloodshed and instability in the Middle East. Only a strong America response can stop this escalation and stop the chaos that has already caused so much harm.