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New role for Russia in the Mideast conflict

| Updated: October 19, 2017 02:19:40


New role for Russia in the Mideast conflict

Russian intervention in Syrian civil war supporting the besieged Assad regime in October last year has changed the ground realities and created an opportunity for Moscow to play an increasingly important role in the region. This appears to be the consensus of a number of geopolitical analysts and some venerated European investigative newsmen.
The turn of events in the Syrian civil war following the Russian intervention in support of embattled President Assad that prompted perceptible changes in policy initiatives of several important players in the Middle East imbroglios are a case in point. At least three visible instances in shifting interstate understanding throw some positive indications towards such a development.
While the fragility of the on-again, off-again drama of US-Russia negotiations to broker a Syrian peace deal since early August (with repeated US threats to call it off) between the two foreign ministers John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov still surviving, some new elements have emerged compounding the confusion.
THE RUSSIAN INROADS INTO MIDEAST: The failed military coup in Turkey against President Erdogan in July led to the Turkish leader's partial rapprochement with Russia and Iran. Iran also allowed Russia in August to use its base in Western Iran to carry out air strikes in Syria. Russian long-range bomber Tupolev-22M3 and Sukhi-34 strike fighters used the Hamedan base for the purpose. This obviously suggests high-level cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, the two key allies of the Syrian president.
 Another key ally of the US, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in an interview with Egyptian newspaper editors in the third week of August in Cairo stated that his "Russian counterpart and close ally" Vladimir Putin wanted to host an Israel-Palestinian summit to revive peace talks. He told the editors that he believed that Israel was increasingly convinced "of the need for a peace deal" and describe it as a "positive sign." This also reflects a sign of change.
All these happened following a decision at NATO's summit in Warsaw in early July to launch the alliance's largest military buildup since the end of the Cold War to counter what they called a "resurgent Moscow." However, behind the façade of an orchestrated attempt to project the group's united stand on the move, western news agencies reported that French President Francois Hollande appeared to offer 'more than an olive branch' to Moscow saying that Russia was 'neither an adversary or threat but a partner.' German Chancellor Angela Markel had also reportedly shown an ambivalent attitude.
Turkey's dramatic intervention in Syria in August after the failed coup attempt in July proved a setback for the US. First, the Russian and then the Turkish intervention prompted a member of former US President GW Bush's national security council Matt Bryza to comment: "The US is risking grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory."
NO MODERATES IN SYRIAN COUNDRUM: A question featured during the US presidential election campaign whether the Syrian dictator had to be removed to defeat ISIS. Bernie Sanders, one of the Democratic Party candidates (who later endorsed Hillary Clinton as the next Democratic US presidential nominee) emphatically said no, because removing Assad would create a vacuum that Islamic extremist would fill. However, Hillary Clinton said Assad had to go but at the same time noted Turkey was not helping matters. This was referred to by AlterNet political writer Steven Rosenfeld at the time.
Sanders' argument is exactly the same as that of former US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. Celebrated American newsman Seymour M. Hersh quoted the general in his 8,600-word expose in the London Review of Books as saying so before he had retired in late last year. Based on reports of various intelligence teams, the former US army chief thought that President Obama's policy that moderate rebels in Syria could be armed in order to defeat Assad was flawed.
Actually there are no moderates in the Syrian civil war, as repeatedly proven by failed CIA attempts to arm and train forces that took American weapons and sold them to Assad's bitter opponents, either Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State. Hersh claimed that those intelligence reports suggested that removing Assad would likely lead to what has been seen in Iraq and Libya, where America's removal of the dictators created vacuum that was filled by warring factions and fundamentalists.
Hersh has also quoted former Lt. general Michael Flynn, director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA, from 2012 to 2014) as saying (of the White House): "They did not want to hear the truth." This uncertain situation led some of the senior military operatives to decide in the autumn of 2013 to provide intelligence to some other nations "on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State." Those nations were Germany, Israel and Russia. The reason, they explained, German had feared about its own six million Muslim population; Israel was concerned with border security while Russia, an old ally of Syria, was worried by the threat to its only Mediterranean naval base at Tartus.
Meanwhile, the latest report from Washington - a leaked audio - reveals US Secretary of State John Kerry's frustration in his failure to end the Syrian civil year that has entered into its sixth year. He has urged the US-backed Syrian rebel leaders to participate in the next election in Syria with President Assad still in power. However, he has assured them the polls will be supported by many other countries and supervised by the United Nations.
This leaked revelation following  Kerry's repeated threats to break off the Syrian peace talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov has provided a clear signal that the Russian-backed Syrian regime is gaining the upper hand. Besides, increasing support from other countries for a Russian role in the region has apparently strengthened Moscow's stand in the Syrian conflict. However, the situation is still very fluid.
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