Russian President Vlad Putin showed the Russian Parliament his new big military stick, in his state of the nation speech Feb. 28. It included an anti-aircraft laser system, an air-launched projectile that travels at Mach-10 and has a range of 1,240 miles. It can carry a conventional or nuclear load, according to the Kremlin.

Putin also bragged of underwater drones that can attack enemy aircraft carrier groups, shoreline defenses or infrastructure, and cannot be countered by any defense system in the world. Both conventional and nuclear-tipped versions can be produced. There was other sci-fi type weaponry introduced as well.

Russia says it tested a pair of fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jets in Syria in combat, according to RT. Russian planes are reportedly in action in eastern Ghouta.

Putin said Russia needed these new weapons because Moscow’s concerns have been ignored by the US and its allies. “Nobody wanted to talk with us on the core of the problem. Nobody listened to us. Now you listen!” he said. Putin suggested the U.S. start negotiating a security arrangement which would take Moscow’s interests into account. Putin skipped over the part about how he took Washington's interests into account when attempted to interfere in the U.S. elections or sent hundreds of mercenaries to attack U.S. troops and allies.

Persian push

In addition to Russia, Syria invited in a sizable Iranian presence. In exchange for providing cannon fodder for Assad, Iran established bases closer to Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel estimates Hezbollah, has between 100,000 to 150,000 short-, medium- and long-range missiles supplied by Iran.

Tensions between Turkey and the U.S. serve Moscow and Tehran's joint agenda to reduce U.S. influence in the Middle East and “fracture the longstanding U.S.-Turkey strategic partnership," Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 27. He said Russia is using the conflict to test and exercise new weapons and tactics.

Middle East neophyte

If Votel is right, Russia, Syria, and Iran are one side of a violate situation that could lead to WW III. Note that nothing in the region is simple, but Israel, the Kurds, and the U.S. would be on the other. Turkey is a NATO ally, but it is threatening Cyprus, another NATO member in the east and the U.S. in the west. Turkey supplied IS forces and now hires them. Erdogan’s autocracy will end in civil war or assassination. Until then, Erdogan is warming to Moscow.

One thing that may stop the doomsday scenario is the ancient distrust between Shitte and Sunni Muslims.

The sects split in 632 following Muhammad’s death. Sunni’s believe new leaders should be elected from among those capable of the job. Abu Bakr became the first Caliph through this process. Shai believes leadership should have passed to Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali bin Abu Talib, after the prophets death.

Iran is the predominant Shiite power in the region, and U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia is a Sunni powerhouse. Today their struggle is a political and economic one, a struggle for control of resources and dominance in a politically fraught region.

Saudi Arabia is fighting what it claims are Yemen’s Houthi rebels and has been for three years. Both nations have engaged in proxy wars. For example, the Saudi’s claim Iran arms the Houthi, which is denied by Tehran. Iran and Iraq are the only Shia majorities. If Russia sides with Iran, it must answer to the Sunni world.